This is a transcription of a lecture originally given live and unscripted on Gnostic Radio. You can download the audio lecture for free here: Bhavachakra 07 Mystical Death - AUDIO . There is also an accompanying pdf: Bhavachakra 07 Mystical Death - PDF .
Today, we will continue our course about the Bhavachakra, which is one of the central symbolic forms in esoteric Buddhism. The Bhavachakra is usually referred to as “the Wheel of Samsara,” but as we explained earlier in this course, that term is not accurate. The word भावचक्र Bhavachakra means “the Wheel of Becoming.” This wheel symbolizes how all things move through cycles in nature. The word भाव bhava means “becoming.” It also means “a state of being.”
As we explained in this course, we have our own bhava, and this state of being or level of being is constantly changing in accordance with our behavior, not our intentions, and not our wishes, not even our prayer. Our state of being, our level of being, changes by how we act, not just physically, but emotionally and mentally as well. Every atom of energy that we utilize is putting our own “wheel of becoming” in motion. It is the wheel of our mind, the wheel of our consciousness. We ourselves are a Bhavachakra. This is our fundamental interest in this symbol.
In the previous two lectures, we described for you three fundamental factors that help us to direct the spinning of that wheel, the movement of that wheel — in other words, the movement of our psyche. Those three factors are really one factor; they are united. They are the synthesis of our behavior. The first of the three that we discussed was sacrifice. The second was birth. Today we will talk about death.
The factor of death we are going to describe is not physical death. From the perspective of the bigger picture of existence, physical death is no more important then when we go to sleep at night. From the point of view of the big picture, when we go to sleep at night, it is just a little mark on the long trajectory from our experience. Seen from a wider perspective, observing the course of your life, you realize that each death that you experience is exactly the same as sleeping at night; it is a change from one experience to another. There is an ending and a beginning. Physically speaking, death is important in the context that it provides a doorway that you can utilize if you know how. Last year we gave a course about physical death. Todays lecture is about psychological death, which is more important. Psychological death, or mystical death, is far more impactful on the trajectory of your consciousness and your experience of being alive then physical death is. Physical death is a change of physical state. Psychological death is a change spiritually, psychologically. This is why it is more important. The psychological and spiritual last beyond physical death. Thus, they are more important.
In the Christian Bible, in the New Testament it says in Corinthians:
“That which thou sowest is not quickened except it die.” - 1 Corinthians 15
This statement underscores how important the factor of death is in our spirituality. It underscores how mistaken modern so-called “spiritual” people have become, because all of them steadfastly avoid the subject of death. People nowadays in religion and spirituality are very uncomfortable with the notion of death, and completely avoid it. The truth is that death is the door to liberation. Yet remember: we are talking about psychological death, not physical death.
Of the three factors — which I remind you are united as one — the aspect of spiritual work that is most impactful on our experience from moment to moment is the factor of death. Unfortunately, most spiritual groups focus on service or sacrifice, or on birth, on having ecstasy, and having great emotional highs, without realizing that those experiences are impossible if death does not occur first: the death of the old, the death of the impure, the death of the lie.
This statement from Corinthians provides us a theme within which we can explore our inner Bhavachakra.
The Wheel of Becoming is symbolized in Buddhism as a great cosmic structure in the grip of a terrifying being. As we mentioned, most groups study this at the most superficial level, as how it relates to physical and inter-dimensional existence. This level of importance is useful, and applies to our spiritual pursuit, and is necessary to know. However, if you really want change, and you want liberation from suffering, and you want to know something about reality, you have to understand the Bhavachakra is a symbol of your own mind. It is your state of being right now. Your state of experience is mapped on this symbol. The previous lectures we have given have explained the many details of that.
Our Sense of Self
Today, we are going to focus on the creature that holds the wheel. His name is Yama. He looks quite terrifying, depicted in a wrathful form with fangs and claws, and three all-seeing eyes, and five skulls upon his crown. In his grip is the whole of Maya — the phenomenal world, manifested existence — and in that cycling of manifested things we find all beings: the gods, demi-gods, humans, animals, hungry spirits, and those trapped in the hell realms. That is what you learn when you study the superficial, introductory aspect of the bhavachakra: the external meaning. It is necessary, but it is not the whole meaning.
Internally, the six realms represent six aspects of our psyche. There are six different types of psychological phenomena that are constantly vying for supremacy within us. Psychologically speaking, we are a chaos. We are constantly contradicting ourselves. From one moment to the next, different psychological entities attempt to take control of our inner wheel and turn it to their own advantage.
In some moments, it is entities that are defined by a strong sense of pride, me: “I deserve, I want, I am.” This is a sense of self, defined by comparison with others. That sense of self feels inferior or superior depending on its own idiosyncrasies. It is pride, shame, vanity. Pride corresponds to the levels of the so-called “gods,” those that consider themselves superior, those who consider themselves powerful.
We all have a huge diversity of entities in our minds that emerge in different ways, and different times, depending on our experience from day to day. We have entities of anger, envy, fear, lust, resentment, gluttony, greed, and jealousy. We have uncountable number of different “I’s,” kleshas, samskaras, aggregates, defects, egos — different elements in our psyche that feel like “me.” Each one has its own emotions, thoughts and impulses to act. Sometimes they seem quite beneficial, loving, humble, when secretly they are deeply envious or seeking revenge.
Currently, amongst all of us, our bhava, our state of being, is extremely subjective, deeply asleep. We lack any real perception of the truth. We do not know ourselves, but we think we do. We think we are awake. We think we know what we are and who we are, when in fact the totality of our sense of self is self-propagated lies. It is an illusion that we ourselves have made, built out of our traumas and desires.
We fight tooth and nail to protect our beloved “sense of self.” We love our sufferings, and love to talk about them, to get sympathy for them. They are the very core of our “sense of self.” We cannot imagine what would happen if we were to lose this “sense of self,” of “me, who I am.”
When we encounter the genuine dharma, the real teachings, we become terrified. The teachings state that the sense of self is the cause of suffering for ourselves and for those we love, thus that sense of self must die. When we hear that teaching, we run in terror. We seek any kind of evasion, and do everything we can to preserve our precious “sense of self.”
Really, this is understandable, because we don’t know anything else. We know our cage, we know our little name, and our set of resentments, and our long list of grievances, but we do not know the truth. We do not know who we really are. We can scarcely remember what happened last week or last month, thus we have no clue about our previous existences.
We have no concept of who our real Being is, our true inner Being, which is utterly without pride, completely without anger, absolutely free of doubt or fear. It is pure serenity. It is a deep, abiding love.
We have become so encaged in our fear, pride, and lust that we cannot even imagine life outside of the cage. That is why many students ask, “When the ego is removed, there emus be nothing, no self, no existence, it must be boring!” This mistaken concept reflects how deeply hypnotized we are by the ego, and how convinced we are that the ego is our very self. Yet, it is a mistaken view. Our true nature is not the ego. We have a genuine reality hidden inside, a true nature, a manner of being that is utterly without flaw — yet none of us remember it, because we have been in our self-made cage for so long.
When someone shows us how to break the lock of our cage, we say, “No, no, no, no. I am just going to hang spiritual pictures on the walls of my cage. I don’t want out.”
The real Dharma teaches us how to break the cage, but it takes courage. A lot of courage. It is not easy. To break the cage requires very specific training, very specific knowledge, and a great deal of willpower. Primarily, it requires someone who can be self-reliant, and who can put these three factors in motion in themselves continually from moment to moment. A school cannot do that for you. A master cannot do that for you. No god can do that for you. The Buddha himself cannot pull you out of hell. Only you can pull yourself out. That requires knowing how to put these three factors united in motion continually, without stopping, so that your continual experience and your continual Bhava is moving out, not deeper into hell. Rather, our psychological trajectory has to be kept continually moving up, towards freedom. Right now. Constantly. To do that requires a lot of self -reflection, a lot of self-awareness, a lot of caution, and a lot of energy.
Yama and Maya
So, regarding that creature that holds the wheel, if the wheel is in us, the creature must be in us, too.
Yama यम is a Sanskrit name, and is actually the inverse of the word Maya माया. Most people who have studied yoga, Hinduism, or Buddhism are familiar with the word Maya, and interpret it immediately as “illusion.” We have explained in the previous lectures that the word Maya is actually the name of the Divine Mother. She is the body of existence. She is the goddess. She is Prakriti. She is Prana. She is Maya, Mary, and Isis. She is nature itself—not physical nature only, but all of the dimensions, all the way to the Absolute, abstract space. Shunyata. Adi Buddha. Samantabhadra. She is all of that. She is the ground from which existence emerges, and she is every particle of existence.
We turn her into illusion because of the nature of our cage, the way we grasp the false sense of self. This “me,” this “myself,” causes us to perceive incorrectly. What we see is projected. It is illusion, it is Maya. That is not Her fault, it is our fault. Her form, if she has a form, is simply a mirror. We see in that mirror what we have made. What we see in life is what we have made of it. Everything we perceive through our eyes, ears, tongue, nose, touch, and mind is an illusion projected by the mind. We can only see what we ourselves are willing to see, what we want to see. This is one of the fundamental arguments of Asian philosophy, one that is grossly misunderstood.
Illusion emerges out of ourselves because of our mistaken tendency to hold fast to a false identity, a psychological concept that we ourselves have crafted over thousand of years. In each new existence, in each body, the “I” takes on a new personality, a new name, a new face, a new body. Nevertheless, inside of that personality is that same set of psychological traumas that continues to deepen its addiction to suffering. We repeat the cycles again and again. We are always blaming others, always blaming god, our spouse, others, our karma, never recognizing that the spinning of the wheel is done by ourselves. In other words, that demonic wrathful creature that grips the wheel is also ourselves. It is our own Satan. It is our own Anti-Christ: the mind. In the Bible, it is call Jezebel, “she who calls herself prophetess.” That is Yama, this creature with the head of the bull. He represents our own mind. So, you see, there is the external meaning, and the internal meaning.
Directly translated, Yama is usually said to be the god of death, so he appears in this terrifying aspect. Yet, the word यम Yama itself has a very deep meaning.
The first is that Yama is merely the inverse of Maya, the same mirror. Yama is Maya itself; she and he are the same thing, yet mirrored.
Interestingly, Yama also means “Pluto,” which in the Greek and Roman mysteries is the god of the underworld.
Yama can mean “crow,” which in the west symbolizes death.
Yama can also mean “charioteer, driver, bridle, self-control, forbearance, self-restraint.”
Thus, we see that Yama has a duality. As the god of death, Yama stops life, restrains life. But Yama also restrains bad behavior.
Yama can mean “one of a pair, twin, or twin born.” This is a very interesting connotation if you have studied Prometheus. We gave a lecture about Prometheus and Pandora a few months back when we talked about Prometheus and his brother, who are twins, who represent the two faces of Lucifer, the tempter.
Yama can mean “the number 2, couple, pair.” We are going to come back to that.
Also, “Tone of utterance, pitch of the voice. Key.”
At the most basic level, this term Yama is interpreted to mean the god of death, but if you know the deeper meanings of the word, and you study any asian scriptures, you will discover that if you read Yama with these other meanings in mind, you will start to penetrate the actual meaning of the scripture, not just the version taught to beginners. You will find the reason why the scripture was written, which is to give clues to the psychological work. Those clues not given openly, but hidden in symbols.
Here we see Yama as painted in a typical Buddhist temple.
We need to understand that Yama handles the process of death in us. Yama is part of us; in other words, we have our own Yama, our own lord or god of death within.
That process of death that our inner Yama manages within us — psychologically speaking — can happen in two ways: mechanically, automatically, or intentionally.
The vast majority of beings allow the process of nature to take them automatically. That is probably what all of us are doing as well. In our moment-to-moment existence, we are just suffering and longing for freedom. Perhaps we are making some superficial alterations to our behavior, changing the way we dress or the books we read, but fundamentally, psychologically, we do not change thoroughly. We have the same pride, the same lust and the same envy that we always had. We do not fundamentally change our root problems. In other words, we are being carried by life, rather than controlling it. Everything just happens to us. Life, for us, is mechanically happening, automatically happening. We are being handled mechanically by nature. We are being controlled by our karma, rather than the other way around.
The part of our Innermost Being that is handling our karma has to manage it according to how our Being must move. Our being does not have any dharma to work with, no cosmic money, no capital to pay our debts. That is, we owe karma. We owe many debts, psychologically speaking.
From lifetime, to lifetime we have pursued our desires endlessly — chasing lust, chasing pride, and trying to out do each other; trying to acquire a little bit of physical comfort, but suddenly it is all taken away from us. We die; we are born again, and start the cycle again. All along the way, we repeat the same mechanicity, repeating the same problems, the same mistakes, repeating the same desires, again and again, much as we do now from day to day.
As such, over the course of many lifetimes, we have done very little for any but ourselves. If we analyze our lives now, we can see that is pretty much true. If we look at our day-to-day lives, from today backwards, we find that the vast majority of our thoughts and actions have been about “me, myself, and I.” When we have done a little bit for someone else, it was done when it was convenient, or when it was easy, or when we could get some praise or recognition. We do something for others when we would get something out of it. It is rare to find a moment, even one moment, when we genuinely made a strong sacrifice for someone else, at cost to our self. Yet, sacrifice of others is how we acquire dharma. We explained that in the lecture entitled Sacrifice. To acquire cosmic capital, dharma, the coin with which we can purchase help, liberation, we acquire that through sacrifice, through giving up our desires, through making a sacrifice of our time and energy for others.
Thus, because we lack that dharmic capital we could use to pay our debts, we have to pay mechanically, through the automatic processes of nature, which the whole world is suffering within now: the uncertainty of day to day life, the limited ability we have to guide our lives towards real security and happiness, the complete lack of knowledge of our purpose, our Being, our future… We suffer in many ways, not just physically, by mentally, emotionally, spiritually…
Then, when our debts reach a critical mass, nature — out of compassion, guided by the Divine Mother (Maya) — manifests as Yama, to cleanse us of impurities. That cleansing process is called hell. It is very painful. Yet, that is the mechanical process of nature, a system established by the need to cleanse impurities from nature. Those impurities are in our minds. If they were allowed to continue, the universe would become swallowed by them. Hell is how the divines preserve the opportunity for liberation for us.
Death by Skillful Means
From that point of view we then look at the second way to die, willfully guided by skillful means. This means one makes the choice to cleanse oneself, avoiding hell, and becoming clean psychologically through rigorous change. This is very difficult.
To willfully die by skillful means does not happen by mere intention. It happens when you know how to do it and you do it. Not tomorrow. Not at the retreat, whenever that is, once a year. It happens everyday. This is important to clarify in our minds when we are analyzing our own spiritual life. When we look at our behavior, we have to be objective, impartial, scientific, and ask ourselves, “Am I really making fundamental changes in myself? Am I really conquering my lust, pride, my envy, or am I just fooling myself?” They are not easy questions to answer. If you find them easy to answer, you are fooling yourself; make no mistake. To change in this way is very difficult. Yet, there are unmistakable ways to know when you are successful and we will discuss that.
In one tantric scripture it states:
“The lord of death [Yama] resides in your own heart; your life is being cut short by you, yourself; it is you who drinks the poisonous water—with certainty, beware of this demon!” - Stages of the Heroic Mind
This scripture comes from the tradition of Lo Jong, which is a Tibetan Buddhist tradition that was not available to the public until very recently. This demon is in yourself: Yama.
In another scripture it states:
“We all suffer in this cycle of existence; as I search down to its foundation for the root, I see the king: the thought “I am,” which resides in the palace of my heart in the midst of false conceptions.
“With whom shall I battle, for I am my own enemy? Who will save whom, for I am my own savior? I am my own witness for my actions and inaction. I will be free when I tame my own self.” - The Peacock’s Neutralizing of Poison
This is from another scripture from the same tradition. These scriptures point out that the fundamental existence for psychological change is in our hands. It is not in repeating mantras or doing pilgrimages; it is not in making big donations. Liberation is found by changing psychologically. Sacrifice is necessary, spiritual birth is necessary, yet neither factor can change us fundamentally if we do not die psychologically.
So, Yama is also our own inner demon, which is not one thing, but a multiplicity with many forms and faces. Remember, Yama is the mirror of Maya. Maya takes many forms. It appears with many faces and many voices. The appearances are just manifestations of our ego, our mind. It is completely inconsistent. It is a constant battle, and it never shuts up.
Anyone who has made the attempt to meditate knows well how difficult it is to tame the mind. And even if you develop some degree of concentration, you still cannot meditate — that is, enter samadhi — because the mind has many levels. It is very deep, and even if on the surface it appears calm, below it is not.
Right now, if we listen to our mind, we will hear a voice that may be repeating what I am saying, or commenting on what I am saying, or trying to talk about something that is completely unrelated, like, “I am hungry; I should have gotten that bagel when I had the chance.” That is not your consciousness. That is an ego. Those voices in your head are not your Being. They are your egos, and we are hypnotized by that voice. It is constantly chattering all day and all night. How many human beings are making the effort to cut through that chatter and silence it? How many cannot even turn off the radio or the TV because they have become so addicted to the constant noise? I have met people who get in the car and cannot bear the silence, so they blast the radio; they cannot drive without the chattering radio. This is a symptom of their mind. They have become so habituated with the constant chatter of their mind that they want to hear it outside, too. Turn it off. Turn off the radio, turn off the TV, and turn off the computer. When we do that, we start to feel agitated, because it becomes “too quiet.” This illustrates why we cannot meditate: we are addicted to noise and chaos. We cannot even tame our senses physically, nor psychologically, which is harder.
In this passage we see, “As I search down to the foundation for its root I see the king, the thought, “I am,” which resides in the palace of my heart amidst false conceptions.” This thought “I am” is our ego, our false sense of “self.” If you become sincere in the observance of yourself, you will find that this thought continually manifesting in different ways. “I am suffering, I am good, I am bad. I want, I need, give me, give me.” The I am is always there. Do not mistake this I am for the real I Am.
The real “I AM” is the Being, about which Jesus taught when he said, “‘I Am’ the way, the life, and the truth.” That is a different “I Am.” That is the I Am of the Being.
The Being simply is. The Being does not want or lack desire. That I Am is what we need to be watching for.
We need to be a witness of our actions and inactions. We need to learn to see, “for whom I should battle, for I am my own enemy?” You see the question that this raises; if we accept the philosophical concept that “I am Yama, I am my own God of death. I am the creator of my own suffering. I am the one turning my own Bhavachakra into hell,” then how do I fight against myself? Who is fighting whom? This is the precise conflict that the beginners encounter. Who fights whom? “If I am so much ego, who do I fight that with? How do I fight myself?” This is a difficult, thorny problem when we are asleep, when we don’t have clear vision, when we cannot see clearly, whether outside or inside.
“Who will save whom for I am my own savior?” We have the arrogance to presume that we will save humanity. We believe we will become great masters and bodhisattvas and save humanity, yet the fact is that as you can see right now in our lives, we cannot even save ourselves. We want to change other people and make them better, but we cannot even make ourselves better. It is a problem, but there is an answer. There is a way.
This image represents Yamantaka. Looks the same as Yama, right?
Yamantaka is a wrathful creature with a bulls head, because it is the same creature. Remember I said Yama means twin? Well, Yamantaka is Yama’s twin. Yamantaka means “destroyer of Yama.” He is also called Yamari, which means the “enemy of Yama.” Yamantaka is the antithesis of Yama. These are both parts of our selves. These are parts of us, parts that we do not know about. These are symbolic images. Each part of this image is symbolic, not literal. Westerners get very freaked out by pictures like this, because they think it is all about “the devil,” which they imagine is some creature in the world. It is about the devil, but our own devil, inside of us. Let me explain what these symbols mean so we do not feel scared.
Yama is a ferocious looking creature with the head of a bull. If you know Egyptian mysticism, you know that Apis is the bull god. Amongst all the ancient traditions the bull represented the Being, such as amongst the Minoans, Cretans, Greeks, Hebrews, Jews, and Egyptians. The bull represents the Father, Kether, Amun-ra, the highest.
Unfortunately, because we are fallen into disgrace, we take all of the forces that we receive from the Absolute and from our Innermost we invert all of that; we corrupt it. We take all of our energy and utilize it to cause suffering for ourselves and others. We utilize it to feed desire, to feed our materialism. Over a long period of time, we have converted the inner bull Apis into the bull Yama. We have converted our psychological into something animal. We are animals, psychologically speaking. Truthfully, we are worse then animals. Humanity on this planet nowadays behaves worse then the animals do. Animals do not destroy their own food and water. They do not kill randomly, for pleasure or entertainment, like we do; they kill to eat. We kill because we like it. We rape, pillage and destroy because we enjoy it. I know all of us in this room feel offended by that, but most of us watch violent TV, and we enjoy the entertainment of killing. We like it. We do not like studying about virtues. We like watching defects (lust, anger, sarcasm, cruelty) and indulging in those things.
Yama also represents that bull-headed creature within us and represents how the forces of Kether (Apis, the bull) have fallen into disgrace. That is why Yama is depicted in a ferocious aspect, out of control.
In the myth of Yama, he is said to be a fallen king. Our inner king is Kether, our Innermost, our Being, who has been disgraced because of our current state. So the myth says that Yama the enraged king went around Tibet, killing and rampaging in his enraged state. In order to stop him, another aspect of divinity decided to try to figure out a way to block him in doing this. He had to come up with a smart way of doing that, because Yama is the god of death taking the very power of the whole wheel — all manifested existence in his claws — in order to kill everything.
To accomplish this, Manjushri — which is an aspect of our Being — decides to use on the very same form as Yama, but multiplied. So, Manjushri manifests as Yamantaka. Where Yama has one head, Yamantaka has many. Where Yama has a few arms (depending on the depiction), Yamantaka has many more. Manjushri comes at Yama as Yama, but more powerful. He terrifies Yama with his own image. In other words, he puts a mirror before Yama’s face, and says, “Look at yourself!” Thus, Yama is conquered.
This beautiful myth teaches us how to reach mystical death, how to conquer our own Yama, who controls the Bhavachakra, and turn that power towards liberation.
In this image we see that Yamantaka is with his consort, who is called Vajravetali. We see god and goddess, Father and Mother — in other words, an Elohim אלהים (Hebrew for “god and goddess”). Vajravetali means “indestructible corpse.” A curious term, isn’t it? If you think about it and analyze it, and you meditate on it, the meaning is very beautiful.
Vajravetali is an aspect or manifestation of Saraswati, who is the wife of Brahma, a symbol of the sephirah Kether. Saraswati is the bringer of all good things, the bringer of beauty. In order to aid beings, she can take form as Vajravetali, this wrathful shape; in other words, she is Maya. She is “the corpse,” all things that appear to be alive and real, but fundamentally have no independent existence.
All manifested things appear to be real, but ultimately are not. We look at each other and we think we are all real, and we believe what we see will last, but it will not. Each person we become identified with, we look at them, we judge them, and we give them attributes in our mind that we believe are true, yet we fail to realize that we invent it all. We do not know those people at all. Moreover, we do the same with ourselves: we believe many things about ourselves that are not true. We do not know ourselves at all.
We psychologically invent many things, and project them onto people, places and things, all the while assuming it is true and real. In reality, everything is impermanent and will die. We forget that, because we are asleep, hypnotized by the flux of illusion, the body of Maya.
She, the goddess, is the very body of existence: the arising and passing of all things. She is the birth, life, and death of everything. She is “the indestructible corpse.” She is how nature emerges, sustains and passes away. She is the fundamental ground of existence. She is the Vajravetali, the “wife” of Yamantaka; rather, she is the feminine aspect, which means the energy, shakti, the power of Yamantaka. Without her, Yamantaka would be powerless.
Vajravetali is a form used by our Divine Mother. She and Yamantaka symbolize the perception of reality. When you awaken, little by little, you start to penetrate the veil of Isis. No mortal can penetrate the veil of Isis, but an immortal can. What is immortal is your consciousness, your Tathagatagarbha, your Buddha Nature. It can penetrate the veil. It can see the body of Saraswati / Vajravetali and see that corpse dancing as nature. Nature is beautiful, but impermanent. In that vision you recognize she is an embodiment of love performing her dance to aid us towards liberation, but beings do not recognize that. We become confused. All of that is a manifestation of Manjushri.
This image represents Manjushri. Manjushri is one of the symbolic forms of the Buddhas.
All of these images and names are symbolic forms. Many people fall into the mistake of taking them literally. While they do have a literal existence, so to speak, that is unimportant. What is important is what they represent in our own selves. Manjushri represents the cumulative wisdom of all the awakened beings in existence. Imagine that.
If you are studying any spirituality, to accept it you first must to some degree make an assumption that someone in that tradition achieved its goal, someone escaped suffering and thus they have wisdom, knowledge, of how to do the same. So, if you are a Christian, you accept that there are millions of angels in heaven, with direct knowledge of God. If you are a Buddhist, you accept that there are millions of Buddhas, plus all those on the path towards becoming Buddhas. Thus, imagine all of those awakened beings, and imagine all of their minds as one thing: that is what Manjushri represents: the mind of the Buddhas, all of them united as one intelligence.
So, Manjushri is not one being. Manjushri is the same symbol as Christ: wisdom, in which there is no individuality, but a cosmic unity. When we study Christ, we are not studying a person but an energy. In that energy, there is no I, but there is we. It is a very high level of nature.
In that level, which you can call clear light, is profound cognizance that sees reality, that does not become confused by forms, but sees the basis of forms: the truth. Therefore, Manjushri represents discriminative perception. In Sanskrit, that type of perception is called Prajna. We described Prajna in the previous lecture. Prajna is the highest of the paramitas (perfections). Prajna is the ability to see the Absolute, Reality. That kind of perception is indistinguishable from perfect compassion; in other words, the beings who have perfect compassion also have discriminative perception, the ability to see the fundamental reality of all things. That is not theoretical or philosophical, it is actually perceived. All of that together is what Manjushri represents.
In this particular representation, Manjushri has a sword. It is the most common way he is shown. The sword represents the perception that cuts through appearances, cuts through Maya / Yama. Discriminative perception cuts through the “I,” and sees reality. It sees not merely the veil of Isis (nature) — that is, what appears to be real — rather, it sees what truly is real. It cuts the veil: it sees the truth. This is not philosophical, it is not to see the same way you are seeing now, but to see beyond physicality and beyond time, and beyond the fourth, the fifth, and the sixth dimensions, and to see all of them simultaneously, without confusion, and how all of them are rooted in the zero dimension, also called the seventh dimension, which is the Absolute, Shunyata, the Emptiness or Voidness. In other words, discriminative perception sees the two truths at the same time, without any confusion. Beings with that paramita developed see relative and ultimate reality simultaneously. This is the vision of a well-developed Buddha. That vision comes from awakened consciousness, not physical attributes, lineage, or any other physical influence.
The myth of Yama described previously explains how the wisdom of the Buddhas, the wisdom of the awakened ones, takes form as Yamantaka to conquer Yama. All of that is within us. Manjushri represents the totality of the wisdom of our own inner Buddha. In other words, this form is inside of us, it is an archetype, a blueprint of what in us needs to develop. Each time we utilize awakened consciousness, we acquire knowledge: real knowledge. This is not something we read in a book, but something we know through our experience. We learn real knowledge by seeing with consciousness awakened, experiencing with consciousness awakened, and consciously knowing what we experienced. In that way, we start to approach seeing and recognizing what is real. We acquire cognizance: conscious knowledge. It is called in Sanskrit jna, which is the same as the Greek word gno, of Gnosis (“knowledge”). So jna is the first part of the Sanskrit word jnana, which means “knowledge.” Both of these words, from Greek and Sanskrit, do not indicate intellectual knowledge or book knowledge; the real meaning is conscious knowledge: that which you acquire from experience. That knowledge from experience is what is represented in the book that is floating on a flower in Manjushri’s hand. That book is the knowledge that our Innermost acquires from the use of discriminative perception, awakened consciousness that cuts through illusion to see reality. This is what we need to acquire death, to conquer Yama: we need conscious knowledge.
Acquiring that knowledge is a process. There are stages. It would be great if we could just say, “Sign me up!” and we could get killed and then we are liberated. It does not work like that. Nothing in nature works like that. There is no shortcut or magic pill to reach liberation. Liberation is a result of awakening consciousness. That is not easy, else we would have already transformed this planet into a paradise. Instead, we have made it into a hell.
Stages of Death
To reach liberation, we need conscious knowledge. To acquire it, the consciousness must awaken. To awaken it, first we need to see how it is asleep. For that, we have to learn what are the causes of suffering.
The first phase of the stages of death is discovery. We have to see for ourselves how we are creating suffering. We have to see our own ego in action, as it acts, as it works, in our mind, in our heart, and in our body. What it says, what it thinks what it feels. How it acts, what it wants, how it manipulates us, how it takes control of us, what feeds it, what stimulates it, what excites it. We need to know all of that.
Think about it: if you are in a war, and you are facing not only your death but the death of everyone you love, and then you find out there is a traitor, a spy, but you do not know who it is; the war is so close to being lost already, and then there is a traitor, how are you going to catch him? How are you going to find out who it is? You are going to have to watch everybody, equally, without prejudice and without preference, because you do not know who it is. It could be your sister, your brother, your mother, your best friend — you don’t know. So you have no choice: you have to watch everybody, equally, all the time. This is how you have to watch your mind: all of the time watching your thoughts, your feelings, your impulses, your reactions, and study them. Study how they function, how they connect to each other, what causes different things to rise up. What are you wanting, what you avoiding, what are you craving, what are you ignoring, what are you willfully not seeing? You need to learn all of those things, because those are the things that keep you suffering, and keep you in the dark, and have you at the brink of losing the battle, losing the war. Time is short.
This phase of discovery is put in motion through self-observation, through constant observance. Scientific observance, which has no preference or presupposition. I am putting it this way because, as a detective, if you go into the headquarters looking for the traitor, and you already think it is a certain person, you are going to pay so much attention to that person that you are not going to see anyone else. The smart traitors will always make you think it is someone else. Egos are very smart — well, they think they are smart, but they are not as smart as God. They are not as smart as Buddha; they are not as smart as your consciousness. They can be found out, and they can be conquered, but you have to pay attention; you have to be watching them all of the time.
2. Judgment, Comprehension
Through that process of observance and discovery and gradually we acquire understanding. Little by little we start to put together the pieces of the puzzle. We start to see how they work together, what stimulates them, how do they behave and how they react; what they cause us to do. Little by little, we start to understand it. Here is the important thing: these egos / defects are parts of our own mind. We made them; they have inside of themselves our energy, part of our consciousness. In order for us to be liberated from suffering, those entities have to die. Yet, you cannot kill it as long as you are inside of it. Makes sense, right? As long as part of you is still inside of that entity, you really cannot kill it; it has to be empty first.
To reach the final stage, execution, you first have to take the consciousness out of it. Let us give an example of this. Imagine you become very angry; anger inflames you. It takes over your thinking and your feeling; even your body can become tense. You can sweat, you can become hot, you can feel ready to run and jump and grab somebody and give them a beating, or whatever it is that the anger wants. Your heart will race and pound. Your mind will race with thoughts of “injustice” and planning for revenge and redemption, and exposing the other person so “they will suffer the way I am suffering.” That state, that bhava, shows that you have zero comprehension of that angry entity, because it has inflamed your three brains. You are burning with it. That means you have no comprehension of it, at all. That means that ego cannot die, because (1) it still has your consciousness trapped within it, and (2) you are continuing to feed it and nourishing it with your energy. However, if you study it, and as that event unfolds over hours, days, or weeks, and you work in meditation and self-observation to work on understanding that anger — where it is coming from, why it is there, how you have empowered it, and the suffering it causes — little by little its intensity will decrease: thoughts, emotions and physical sensation. They will all reduce, until you observe that the same type of scene happens again, just like the first one that stimulated that anger in the first place, but now when that same event happens again, you do not get angry. You might feel a little kick tempting you to anger, but you do not respond to it. Instead, you realize, “Why should I be angry? I understood this already. I know that I do not need to be angry about this. So that person called me a name? So what? That name only means something if I agree that it means something.” Isn’t that true? If my spouse says I am an idiot, she is right. Why should I be mad at her? I am an idiot; I cannot deny it. But if I get angry, it is because something in me disagrees: that is pride, self-esteem. Now if she says it, and I respond with serenity, and know in myself, “She is right. I did a foolish thing.” Anger is not stimulated. Previously, I would have been angry. Now, having meditated and understood that anger, that pride, the same event no longer causes that old reaction. That means that entity of anger is empty, powerless; it no longer traps my consciousness. I recognized the truth of it; I comprehended it. I have seen that that anger is nothing. It does not bother me anymore; thus, now that thing can die. I have not fed it, I have not stimulated it, I have not protected it, I have exposed it. I have seen through it. I can see that it is empty, it is nothing, and it can die. That is the process in synthesis how we must approach the process of death, psychologically speaking. Of course, this is in relation with a specific situation, a specific defect stimulated in a specific event. This does not mean that we have comprehended ALL of our anger. If on it were that easy! We have thousands upon thousands of entities in our minds, and they are each different.
Comprehension is not intellectual. All of us know intellectually that we should not do certain things, yet we still do them. Someone who comprehends will never do it, not for any reason. For example, someone who comprehends that smoking is harmful is repelled by smoking, and has not even an atom of attraction towards it. In the same way, when we comprehend that lust is harmful, and envy is harmful, we will have not even an atom of interest in them. Instead, we will radiate virtues. Instead of lust, we will be naturally chaste, pure: still sexual, but not animal. Instead of envy, we will be naturally happy for the good that others have, rather than wanting it for ourselves.
Comprehension is reached when we naturally, spontaneously, honestly have no interest in a given defect. Instead, we spontaneously, easily, without force or effort, demonstrate the virtue instead. Rather than being angry or hateful, we feel serenity, love. Rather than indulging our gluttony, we are content and happy with being modest, refrained, taking only what we need and nothing more.
Contentment, happiness, acceptance, love, chastity, tolerance, sacrifice for others, diligence, wisdom, insight, generosity, a relaxed and open state of being — these are signs of comprehension.
Once we have comprehended a given defect, it can be eliminated. However, one must know how to eliminate it.
Samael Aun Weor wrote,
This is an important factor that has not been widely taught to humanity until now. So, for many generations, even though this type of knowledge has been available in different forms and different places around the world, the key has been hidden. It is easy to find teachings that talk about spiritual birth, resurrection, that talk about serving others. Sometimes you will find teachings that will talk about the death of the ego — sometimes; yet, most avoid that topic. Even amongst the ones that discuss it, they will not tell you how you actually kill it, how the ego can die. That knowledge was always restricted, and many of the schools nowadays do not even know it, even though it is in the scriptures. It is the highest of the nine yanas, the vehicles of tantra. The highest aspect, the most difficult and rarely accessed, is this knowledge. It was only given to those who through many lifetimes gradually worked their way up to receiving that teaching. So, do not be surprised if you have not heard it before.
These stages of death are talked about in The Revolution of the Dialectic. If you really want to know how to die psychologically and escape suffering, this is the book you need to know very deeply and accurately. It profoundly describes the process of psychological change.
Let me back up, because I want to explain something.
The Bhava of Seeking Death
In that school of Tantra in which the process of death was taught, there is a tradition that represented the process of psychological death in a very profound form of tantra related to Yamantaka. There are many scriptures related to that, many rituals and initiations that were all very beautiful, useful, and good. Unfortunately, most of humanity does not have access to it. Moreover, all of it came from the piscean era, which has already passed. Now we are in a new era, with new influences and forces at work.
The process of psychological death is something that we ourselves put into motion through having the right type of bhava, psychological attitude. That is an attitude that is willing to die, that wants to die as a psyche, so we can be born anew in a better state. This is not an easy attitude to cultivate. It is not easy to embrace death as a path, especially since our culture nowadays is opposed to the death of the ego. In general, we have a culture that is fighting with every ounce of energy we have to avoid the death of our precious “self” at all costs. We sanitize our news so we do not see death; we avoid the reality of death.
The truth is that psychological and spiritual liberation is a process of psychologically dying many deaths; that is, the false self has to die if we are to discover what is real in us.
John the Baptist represented this fact with his beheading. That is how the “I” is decapitated: from level to level, deeper into the psyche. With each death, a birth happens. With each death, a sacrifice happens; the three factors are unified. Physically, terrestrially, we do not have to worry about that all too much. It will happen on its own as we die psychologically. What we need to do here and now is put in motion the three stages of the process of death.
First is discovery. You cannot see the reality of things unless you are willing to recognize that you do not already see it. This is the first problem many people have; we think because we already read a book or because we heard some teaching when we were younger that we already know the truth. We do not. If we know the truth, then the proof is we are escaping suffering. If you are putting in motion the real teachings, then you are coming out of suffering. You experience genuine change. That is how you measure your knowledge, your spiritual progress. You can not measure spiritual development by having fantastical spiritual experiences. They might happen; good for you, but it is irrelevant. Most people in the Gnostic tradition have fall into this mistake. They read the beautiful writings of Samael Aun Weor and his descriptions of his many experiences, and the students think, “If I am having experiences like him, then I am advancing.” So they compare themselves to this great master. This is wrong. Listen: even witches and black magicians have spiritual experiences. That is what drives them: they want to awaken, too. They crave awakening. Those who crave internal experiences can very easily become black magicians. Those who measure themselves and compare themselves based on internal experiences are putting themselves on the path into the abyss. Spiritual experiences are not the measure of spiritual success: the death of the ego is the real measure.
The way you measure your progress is through your death psychologically, through noticing you are changing profoundly. You should be ensuring that you are becoming less, not more. You should be ensuring that your pride is getting whittled down, and that your anger is being exposed so you can work on it. You should be confirming that your envy becomes visible so that you can see how it causes suffering. This is not easy. Nobody wants to face their anger, their envy, or their pride. Most especially, no one wants to face the reality of their lust. We want to keep that in our pocket “for later.” Real spiritual progress does not work like that.
Real spiritual progress is measured through psychological change, which only you can see, nobody else. Your family and your friends will come around and say, “Wow, you changed a lot since you have been studying Gnosis.” And you will say, with a saintly aura, “I have, I sure have!” You do not even see your own pride!
You have to be able to measure your own change. You need to cultivate the ability welcome challenges, difficulties, and stop seeking comfort and praise. Real spiritual progress is not found in comfort or ease: it is found in the problems of life, in the difficulties of day to day survival, because that is how the ego is revealed. If we run to the monastery or forest, we will never, ever progress spiritually. Instead, we will sink into a deep sleep.
The nature of the grasping entity, the “I,” is that it is always seeking pleasure, praise, acceptance, praises from others, envy from others. To really advance spiritually, we have to invert that upon ourselves. Every time we find ourselves seeking something, we have to inquire into it. Even our spiritual ambition has to be analyzed, because the “I” also wants to be a master, a buddha.
We need a mirror that will show us who we really are. None of us want to see who we really are. Samael Aun Weor stated a few times very beautifully: If any of us actually saw the totality of who we are, we would go mad. We could not transform it.
Those who work seriously to awaken start to get glimpses of who they really are, and it is very uncomfortable. It is awful, actually. These images of Yamantaka and Yama do not even come close to representing the reality of the horrors we have within us. These frightening images are quite beautiful compared to what you will see in yourself, the horrors of what you have made, that are there, binding you. To liberate oneself, you have to be willing to see it, and look yourself in the eye and see the reality. That is not easy.
The myth that I explained to you about Yama and Yamantaka gives a clue. It is the essence of that tantric method. That clue is in the tantric method. In the Gnostic tradition, we do not teach this particular technique, since it comes from the Piscean era, but I will explain it so you can understand it. Those who have gone through the long process of training in Tibetan Buddhism of that particular school learn how in meditation to imagine themselves as being Yamantaka. They imagine having the perspective of Yamantaka in order to conquer their inner Yama. They imagine themselves becoming this wrathful being in order to conquer their own ego. This is a very useful example for us to understand how to approach the process of psychological death.
We also have to embrace an attitude (bhava) committed to self-criticism, self-decapitation, and to self-crucifixion. We find similar teachings throughout the genuine religions. Amongst the Christian traditions, this process of embracing death was also widespread, although now it has been abandoned. It was most known among certain monastic groups. You may have heard the phrase Memento mori, which means “Remember, you will die.” That phrase received different interpretations and usages over history, but originated from a group that knew that the process of spiritual change came through psychological death. They would remember death and dying, as a way to stimulate themselves to not feel complacent with their lust, pride, greed, envy, gluttony and laziness, and to be constantly watchful of the subtle tricks that the ego uses to keep us feeding it.
Let us move ahead, in order for us to know how to succeed in this third stage of the process of death.
Once we have (1) discovered how a defect is manipulating us and causing suffering and (2) comprehended that defect — meaning it no longer attracts us or influences us — then we are ready for it to be eliminated. So, we need to know how to do it.
Firstly, the mind cannot slay itself. We need a power that is greater than the mind. We need an executioner.
We need that sword of Manjushri to decapitate the ego. That sword is the Kundalini. It is the fire, the energy, the intelligence of the Divine Mother, and is the embodiment of Prana in us. It is the fire of creativity of creation, the Schamayim (Hebrew: fire + water), which flows in us as Shekinah. Those are Hebrew words, if you do not know them already. That force resides in our sexual glands, but raw, undeveloped. This is why monks and nuns of all religions learn as beginners to save and restrain their sexual energy. Once trained, they learned to harness that energy and direct it towards eliminating the ego. The beginners worked as singles. Once they were trained, those who were ready would enter into a relationship as a couple (man and woman) in order to harness the combined sexual forces, to combine the two polarities (male and female) and direct that energy to liberate the consciousness. This is the purpose of tantra. It is not meant to indulge in desire. It is to die, to liberate the consciousness from its cage. Unfortunately, tantra has been abused and misinterpreted in its propagation into the west. Now, like everything else, people only think of tantra as a way of indulging their desires.
The beginners (singles) in all the traditions would learn techniques to transform that energy. One of the most prevalent is known openly now, and in Sanskrit is called Pranayama.
This image is from Hindu tantra, and represents one variation of a practice of Pranayama. We see a yogi who is controlling the airflow in and out of his nostrils. This is a breathing technique in order to work with energy: not physical air, but Prana, the energy that is outside and inside. The primary activator of this technique is the sexual energy that the Yogi has learned to restrain. There are a lot of people around the world who are learning techniques of Pranayama, but do not learn to restrain their sexual energy, thus they are wasting their time. It is like using a bellows on a cold hearth. If there is no spark on the coals, then no fire will emerge. The spark that produces spiritual life is the same spark that produces physical life: sexual energy. Through the conservation and transmutation of sexual energy, one can awaken consciousness rapidly. Without sexual restraint, we only have spiritual coldness.
Pranayama literally interpreted means “harness the life force.” Prana refers to life force, and Yama means to restrain or harness.
I want to point out some additional meanings here. The Sanskrit word Prana can mean “breath of life, breath, filled, full, wind, spirit, respiration, vigour, life, power, air inhaled, vital organ, vital air, myrrh, respiration, vitality, energy.” Thus, prana is spirit, exactly like Neshamah in Hebrew. Remember in the book of Genesis:
“And Jehovah Elohim formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the neshamah (breath) of life; and man became a living soul.” - Genesis 2:7
This is how the soul is created. Currently, we do not have a soul; we only have the embryo of the soul. For that soul to become (bhava) we need this prana (spirit, life force, breath). We need this breath that comes into us through Elohim.
Elohim is Hebrew for god (El) and goddess (Eloah) united (thus forming Elohim; -im indicates it is a plural word). Elohim is the union of male/female. It is those two principles united in the sexual act that bring the breath of life. That is the prana that we harness in the sexual act. Prana also can mean vigor, life, power, air, vital organ, vital air, respiration, vitality, and energy etc.
Now what is interesting about this is that if you have been paying attention you will notice that the word Pranayama has Yama in it, the god of death, our own inner Yama.
Ayama means “restraining, stretching, stopping, extending, breath or length.”
If we look at that word as Prana-ayama, we see death and life, two sides of the same coin.
Pranayama could also be translated as: “breath of death, power of death, vital organ of death, vital air of death, vitality, energy of death, spirit of death.” Very interesting. What is interesting about that is that the technique of Pranayama has multiple functions.
Traditionally, there are many varieties of Pranayama, but they all boil down to simply this: one learns to visualize and imagine as one draws in the atmosphere the air through the nose and draws the sexual energy up from the sexual organs and up the spine to the brain and holds it. That is the restraint. One is taking the energy around and the energy within and pulling it all together. From this place one directs it to what needs to work on. The most common technique that is used here is that the energy is directed to the heart, to stimulate and awaken the heart, because our hearts are cold. Some versions of that technique circulate and utilize that force along with mantra while the practitioner is visualizing their meditation, visualizing the defect that needs to be destroyed or needs to be understood.
The energy that is being harnessed is a vital force to empower the imagination and give us insight, and are symbolized by the flames that wrap around the sword of Manjushri. The sexual energy — when harnessed, transmuted, refined — awakens the consciousness and give us discriminative awareness, in order to cut through illusion and see reality.
Thus, Pranayama is used as a technique to help with the comprehension of the ego. Pranayama is also used for the execution of the defect. This technique is very important. In this tradition, we teach several different varieties.
This image is Yamantaka as Elohim: god and goddess united.
In that tradition of tantric Buddhism that is related to Yamantaka, the practitioners would visualize themselves as being Yamantaka, and do practices types of Pranayama, and while breathing combined with mantras, visualize themselves as this entity conquering their ego. What is all this under the feet? The egos, our own egos, the many defects that we have. What are these heads on the necklace? Those are the beheaded I’s that must die in us. What are the serpents? They are the serpents that entwine on our spinal column. What are the many eyes on the many heads of Yamantaka? It is all seeing perception that sees in all directions and sees all things and is not confused. In all, this image represents how the sexual energies are united, harnessed, and transformed to help us destroy the ego. The fire of course is the sexual energy that inflames the process and brings light into the darkness.
Energy in Motion
As we explained in the previous lectures, the process of the Bhavachakra is an ever-turning cycle, which is our own mind. That continual turning of the wheel is our experience from moment to moment. In the west, it is represented by the symbol of infinity. That sign of infinity over the body represents the continual flow of energy through our three brains. We are continually experiencing thoughts, feelings, and sensations in the body, without any real awareness of where they are, where they come from, and where they go, and ultimately, what they are producing.
That process of energy in motion is symbolized in Tibetan Buddhism as a vajra, which means thunderbolt.
It is the same thunderbolt used by Indra and Zeus. It is the power that the inner Being has to conquer the demon, to wield the power of the god.
That power is in us. It is in our three brains, but we misuse it. We are always misusing the brain, the heart, and the sexual organs. We use them to feed desire, to chase pleasure and fool ourselves with our many illusions. We constantly grasp an entity that is not real. We need to learn to invert that, and sacrifice that, and instead become our own enemy and seek to conquer ourselves, and deny the ego its food, and deny pride, and deny anger, and deny envy, and instead affirm the Buddha inside. To learn to just be instead of always wanting, that power can be utilized. We can have this power in our hands in order to liberate ourselves, and ultimately be of benefit to others.
What is interesting is that as a single person, that is a great deal of power to have. Look back in history and you can find individuals who utilized their power effectively for the benefit of others. Singles can make enormous changes and help many people. Every one of us has that ability, but we simply do not want to. If we choose to do it, we can.
However, if we work together, the power is even greater. This image is of Vajrasattva.
Vajra is that thunderbolt, and Sattva is “being” or “essence of.” This image is Vajra-sattva united: man and women. Father and Mother. God and Goddess. In Hebrew it is called Elohim. This is a union in purity, united by love. Real love is a rejection of lust, a denial of pride, a conquering of envy, a dispersal of fear. It is an irradiating example of the creative power of the gods, something we can imitate, and something that can empower tremendous change. This is the great secret protected in all religions and ancient mystical traditions: sexual cooperation, which is real Chastity.
This Vajra cross represents the union of those forces, how the monk and nun would stop being monk and nun and become husband and wife, priest and priestess, in order to go faster, further, deeper, in fighting the ego, and awakening. That is why on the cross above Jesus it says INRI:
In Necis Renascor Integer: “In death I am reborn intact and pure.”
In synthesis, there are two ways to approach the process of death: whether as a single person, or as a couple. The single person can harness the sexual forces and form that cross in themselves through their own work inside. The cross of death. Alone, they can only accomplish so much; i.e. just as a single person cannot have a child, so a single person needs a partner to perform greater works. A single persons energy only has so much power. The power to create life, the power to bring life into this world, is the power of the man and woman working together. That same power can be harnessed and utilized to purge the mind of all of its defects completely. That is the mystery that is hidden in all the ancient traditions. We should emulate this example of Yamantaka to show death to its self, in order to conquer it.
Questions and Answers
Audience: In the book [...] says you should not set your mind as a battleground and we are anger, we are hatred, we are also love and kindness. Talks about how anger helps out like taking a baby from a crib, dear one I know you are there, dear one I am here for you. [On the other hand], Shantideva sets the mind back on to itself and battles it and transforms the person. Is there something missing?
Instructor: The first example you gave is from a teacher who teaches sutrayana level Buddhist teachings. Those are the foundational level teachings, which are the introductory stages, where the student is learning firstly how to utilize the consciousness to maintain constant awareness. They utilize working with karma, and learning about impermanence and the inevitability of death. In that level of work, the student is not yet prepared for the difficulties of dealing with the full power of the illusions, delusions, and defects we have within, so they are taught to work in a non-confrontational, gentle manner. The practice you are describing is of that class of teaching.
The second example you gave appears to contradict it, in which the person does battle against the elements of the mind in a more direct, confrontational way. The approach described by Shantideva is related to the Mahayana level, which is the next grade up from the first. In that second level of instruction, the student should already have formed the foundational level understanding — that is, they already know how to be cognizant and awake from moment to moment, they already understand the process of karma and the inevitability of death. Therefore, they are better prepared to maintain a steadfast self-awareness as they engage in battle against the ego.
So, here you have presented two different stages of work: first is preparation for battle, and second is the entrance into battle.
Today’s lecture is from the third level of instruction, the tantrayana level, in which the student already has the foundational level — they have the understanding of the basics, such as they know how to be continually aware of themselves and not lose and become distracted. They also know how to engage in battle based on the Mahayana level, which includes the longing to help others; in other words, the student is developing Bodhichitta. Once this process is in motion and they can sustain it, they need to go faster, they need to work harder, go deeper, so then the tantrayana level is introduced to them, in which the student actually becomes the enemy (Yama). That is, the student no longer sees the ego or defect as separate from them. They see they are the Being, and they are the devil, and through the development of wisdom (prajna), they learn to see the fundamental truth of this apparent contradiction, in order to free themselves of false notions of self. This, of course, requires the disintegration of the defects.
In the earlier levels, the student views themselves as, “I am me over here, and you are the ego over there.” In the middle level, the student starts to understand, “I am going to engage in this battle against my defects, but ultimately both of us are empty.” In the third level of instruction, the student sees, “I am no different then the ego. We are both empty. I am that ego, and I am going to die. Only the Absolute is real.” Do you see how they are different? Each level of instruction is different.
In the Gnostic tradition, because this is a new era, we teach all three levels together. It depends on the level of the student what they can use of it. In the lectures, in the books, we jump back and forth between these stages, because it depends on which aspect of the doctrine we are addressing. The tricky part for the student is they have to be able to gauge what they are capable of, and not overdo it. That is why when I am explaining the lectures, I try to keep those distinctions clear. You need to first build the foundation. You need to first learn how to observe, how to be consistent and not forget, to be here and now and present, never forgetting. That can only be developed if you are working all day long, and also practicing meditation every day. Little by little you develop that capacity of concentration so that you do not forget you are here and now in the body. From that stage, those deeper techniques can really be utilized effectively. Previous to that, they are only confusing. That is why in today’s lecture I was giving an overview, but not going too deep into the details on how to do each part. Each student has to gauge that. That book The Revolution of the Dialectic beautifully outlines these things, but he is much more cryptic than I am. He is a master.
Audience: In Egypt the twins, Horus and Seth. Seth is the god of death and my question is you said with Anubis and John the Baptist them being related the one who gets decapitated, how does this relate to this Buddhist teaching?
Instructor: All the Egyptian symbols are reflections of these same symbols. They are all pointing at archetypes that are inside of you. The real question is: who are you in relation to them? Which type of archetype are you reflecting in your day-to-day life? Horus or Seth? We are all being Seth, betraying Horus, vying for power. We all need to change that. We need the help of Anubis. We need the help of Yamantaka, or John the Baptist or whichever symbol you want to apply there. The symbols are really irrelevant. It is just symbolic. It is like believing a flag is the country. They are not the same thing. What matters most is a deep and constant self-reflection. Asking yourself, “Am I changing, or am I not?”
Audience: In the bigger picture are we intellectual animals one of the slivers of multi-faceted aspects of Yamantaka?
Instructor: We as intellectual animals are Yama. We are our own process of death. We as a consciousness, as a Being — a part of us that we do not know — are Yamantaka. This final image is Yamantaka, our Being. In order for us to conquer the ego we need to become a reflection of that. The only way to achieve that is to cut through the illusion of the intellectual animal, cut through our illusion of what we think we are, who we think we are. We need to learn to be. To awaken. To learn to see. To develop the type of discriminative perception that is so powerful that we literally start to peel away the veils. Anybody can do that.
This is not a game. This is not philosophical debate. These teachings are not a joke. This science is a way to awaken consciousness. To awaken consciousness means to develop perception. Different perception. You will actually see. It will not be like in movies. It will not be like in comic books or books of fantasy and all of that stuff. It is not like that. It is another way of seeing. It is a way of restoring the natural state of consciousness, which is a form of perception.
Do not confuse the symbols, the paintings, the drawing, the terms, the names the mythologies with the facts. Work with the facts. The facts are: we are here, we are now, we are asleep. We are trapped and bound in suffering. There is a way out. The way out is to awaken. It is not through memorizing mythologies and comparing symbols and studying graphics. The way is through awakening. The way to truly awaken is to die psychologically. It is to kill your pride. When pride comes up, do not protect it. When your lust comes up, do not avoid it, do not protect it and do not indulge in it; instead, see it. See it for what it is: a form of suffering. Only then — when you see that reality — will you to want to escape lust, pride, envy, etc. Then, the way to escape it is to see how the cage was built. We need to see every joint, every connection of the cage, then to learn to start cutting them. To stop feeding it, nourishing it and making it stronger and instead to start breaking it down. That is how you do it. You do not need to remember any of these symbols, any of these names. Any of it. Forget it. Symbols will not save you. What will liberate you is to escape from your pride. Come out of it; discard it like the way the serpent discards the skin. We need to escape pride, anger, envy, gluttony, fear, greed, and laziness, all of it. They have to die. They are not our real self. They are self-created illusions.
Audience: What would you suggest to do when the consciousness gets tired from intense self-observation?
Instructor: Relax. Rest. The student in the beginning needs a great deal of willpower to develop self-observation, because that skill is weak in us. Like any muscle, when you start to exercise, it is very hard at first. You might be very enthusiastic for the first week or two, and then you go to the gym everyday and work out, or do your two hours of meditation everyday, but two weeks into it you are wiped out. You are burned out already. The intelligent and balanced way to approach it is to relax. Do not stop, but do not push yourself to exhaustion. Be balanced. Work within your limits.
In Tibetan Buddhism, there are paintings that show the development of concentration practice, the stages of concentration. Those paintings show a great fire at the beginning of the path. As the student ascends higher on that path, that fire gets smaller and smaller. That fire represents the degree of intensity that the student needs in order to develop continuity of consciousness. In the beginning, it takes a lot of force. That is tiring. The way to accomplish it is to do it in little packets. Work on it, then rest. Meditate for ten or twenty minutes, then relax. You know you are going to get tired, so relax. Do not stop paying attention, but relax. Then keep trying, and then relax. Trying and relaxing. This is how you do it in a balanced way.
A problem for many beginners as they learn to meditate and self-observe is that as they start learning they become tense. We have that urgency that wants to learn and wants to get it right, and get it right from the beginning. (That is really pride, just in case you didn’t realize it.) That urgency creates tension; the urgency to succeed, to look like we know what we are doing, the fear of failing, the desire for success, etc. all create tension. What we really need to do is be relaxed.
Genuine self-observation is the same as a good state of relaxation. Be here and now. Someone who is really able to observe themselves is not tense. If you are tense, then you are really not paying attention. Physical tension is a sign of mental tension, some kind of resistance in the mind and in the heart. When you feel tense physically, emotionally, or mentally, that means you are not noticing something psychologically about yourself. You did not transform some impression. You are either resisting something or grasping something psychologically, and that reflects in us physically. Learn to relax.
Audience: Is it safe to assume that you are not heading into the right direction if your life is full of joy, in essence without suffering?
Instructor: What we have to understand is our life is a reflection of our karma. Someone who is experiencing a life full of joy needs to analyze that joy. Is it real joy? Is it lasting joy? Is it joy that is based on some type of materialistic state? If our joy is because we have a good family and we have money in the bank and we have decent health, you are fooling yourself, because none of those things will last. If you could be poverty stricken, have no food, and no money, no family or friends, and be totally joyful and happy, then we can talk about that. You might be doing the right thing. The natural state of the consciousness is the state of joyfulness that does not depend on anything else. It is a state of absolute serenity of peace and love. It does not depend on getting praise. It doesn’t care about getting blamed. It doesn’t care if it is rich or poor, sick or healthy. The natural state of the mind simply is. Unfortunately, we lost touch with that. When you learn to self observe and learn to meditate, you start to get in touch with it. That is what empowers you to go forward.
Embracing death and the idea of seeking to die psychologically can sound very morbid. It is not. It is actually beautiful and joyful. We need to understand how that is, because unfortunately, with the mind that we have now, we can misinterpret the teachings.
In some traditions, the priest or lamas would wear bones and use human bones in the rituals. Westerners see that and are horrified, and think it is black magic — sometimes, it is. Yet, the genuine meaning of that tradition is profoundly reverential, and to show we ourselves are empty, and the cycle of life and death is an illusion. Those lamas are showing what the paintings of John the Baptist and Mary Magdelene represent, when you see them with a skull: they are meditating on the impermanence of things. Comprehending that impermanence leads one to freedom from mundane concerns, and freedom from fear of death.
We will all die. We all died before, and we will die again. Life is a constant process of change. When you really come to terms with that, you become free from that fear of death. Moreover, you can also take advantage of it, and utilize it to benefit yourself and others. Then, Death is not a fearful thing; rather, it becomes a source of change.
Psychologically speaking, in relation to self-observation and meditation, we need to understand that. The Gnostic tradition from the guidance of Samael Aun Weor focuses intensely on the death of the ego. This is necessary. Students who are new and even old ones read the books and become very morbid. They think, “This is all about death, and it is so depressing; it is so hateful and angry.” They do not understand the philosophical point of view, which is not hateful, angry, or morbid. It is liberating.
If you approach your practice solely as, “My ego must die,” and this is your constant perspective, you will indeed become morbid, because it is only one of the three factors; thus, because you have not worked in balance, eventually you will abandon this type of work. That death-focused approach on its own will not render the type of change that we need. We need the unity of the three factors: Birth, Death and Sacrifice.
As an example, let us imagine that you are working on a defect of anger, and you had some experience during the day that really made you mad. You went through that experience with some degree of awareness and thus were able to see all of that anger in yourself, and all of the emotional, mental and physical information related to it. Then you go home to meditate. You relax; you do your prayers and your mantras, and then meditate and visualize that event to understand it better. Then, you become angry again, and are unable to release the attachment to the anger. There is a danger there that you can fall into, in which you strengthen the anger rather than weaken it. Some people fall into this tendency, with various egos; obviously, it is difficult to visualize those scenes without becoming identified with them again. It is not easy to separate oneself and cognizantly do battle with the defect, and overcome it.
A great antidote is to use a psychological mirror. When you observe the scene, you have to use a kind of inner mirror against yourself, and show yourself how ugly you are when you are angry. Rather than seeing the scene from the same point of view you had when you experienced it first, change the point of view to a view from outside of yourself, and see yourself in that scene: see how ugly you are when anger controls you. See how ugly that anger is, and how it will only produce suffering. Then, turn the scene around: imagine that scene as it should have happened, had you brought virtue rather than a defect into it. Imagine that anger is replaced by love. Anger is the inverse of love. Anger is just hate; it wants others to suffer. If you look at how anger motivates us, we want others to suffer the way that we suffered. Convert that anger. Ask yourself, “How would I handle that event if I were to show love instead of anger?” You need to meditate on both sides of the defect, not just the side that shows the anger, but you also need to see what would be the virtue, what would be the right behavior. How would you behave if that defect were its opposite? In this way, while comprehending the costs and ugliness of each defect, you come to see the benefits of the virtues. Thus, you do not become morbid, dark, bitter. Instead, you can see there is hope. If you only focus on the dark side of yourself, you will really start to become self-defeatist, morbid, and frowning all the time, and nobody will want to be around you. All the Gnostics complain, “I lost all of my friends.” You might. Yet, hopefully you will gain better ones. It is important to have balance in our practice and see both sides.
Audience: In doing the work the at times the energy becomes so great that it explodes usually in a negative way to pride, anger, lust etc. How do we avoid these explosions when becoming overwhelmed by the extra energy that we stored up? But rather direct slowly and steadily into a positive stream that feeds rather than consumes.
Instructor: The question in essence is: How can we avoid explosions of negative energy as we work through our day-to-day practice?
The only way to conquer this phenomenon is through experience. It is natural for all students to experience states that we are unable to transform. We are beginners. We are not yet good at transforming impressions and handling the diverse experiences in day to day life. It is normal and natural for us — given our current state — to repress things, avoid things, and indulge in things, and thus make ourselves suffer. For someone who is experiencing a sudden explosion of anger or lust or envy, it is because up to that point they were repressing something and avoiding something. They were unable to transform the impressions that led up to that build up of energy. For lust, for example there is a lot of energy tied up in our lust. If we are not constantly and consistently aware of ourselves, we are constantly building up storage of untransformed impressions, and eventually it will come out. Lust is especially dangerous, and can explode as other defects, such as anger, depression, etc.
The techniques of this tradition are not easy; especially in the first few years it is very difficult, because our prexisting habits express energy in harmful ways. In the beginning, when we first learn to conserve energy, instead everybody represses it; it is difficult for a beginner to understand the difference between conserving and repressing. When you repress something, you put it under pressure. You put it aside and sit on it, and try to pack it into something it should not be in. Energy needs to move, it needs to be utilized. Ultimately, repressed energy will explode out. It will explode out as lust, anger, envy pride etc. This happens to everyone.
The way to avoid these types of explosions is to understand more and more about being constantly aware, watching oneself, and transforming impressions. Of course, it is necessary to do your practices so that the energies are transformed; do pranayama, sexual magic — whatever practice you are able to do. Naturally, you must be transmuting your energy everyday. Learn to transform that energy. Nevertheless, if you have such explosions, then you should be watching yourself carefully, and meditating every day. Reflect upon what led up to that event; the only way you will stop them from happening is by discovering the psychological causes, which can only be found by self-observation and subsequent meditation. You might be surprised by what you find; speculating and guessing will not find the answer. You need facts. So, this is how we learn to change. It is painful, but it is the only way.
Instructor: The Master Samael Aun Weor wrote in the book Aztec Christic Magic that we need to cultivate the habit of being happy. I think that is an important statement. It is very easy to become dark when we analyze ourselves, because we see so many problems. When you are observing yourselves, and you are trying to meditate everyday, the amount of information you gather becomes overwhelming. Students always ask, “How can I only pick one ego, because I see so many egos?” The answer is to meditate on what happened that day. Just meditate as much as you can. If you cannot get through everything that happened, start with the important ones that resonate in your heart and are the most important; meditate on those. If you are one of those “lucky people” (I am joking) who doesn’t find an ego that day, you need to pay attention more. You need to look more. Look the day before or the day before that. You will find things that need to be worked on.
As far as how to sustain the work and have a joyful attitude, this emerges through the transformation of impressions. The problem that can happen when we are working so much on the ego is that it can become very much about “me.” As in, “I” am working on “my” ego. “My” pride is so bad “I” am overwhelmed. That defeatist, morbid, frustrated state is pride. Recognize that. Instead of having that attitude, work with a sense of indifference. None of us have an egotistical reaction to brushing our teeth. We just brush them because they need brushing. Our meditation should be the same. We meditate because we must. Not because we are bad or good, but because we need it. I hope your practice reaches that point where you realize meditation is not something that is optional, rather it is like eating a meal, and you need it to continue to go on. You come to the realization that you need meditation, and you look forward to meditating.
In those times when you feel deflated, defeated, or despondent, or those negative emotional states, it is okay to pause in the psychological work in order to rejuvenate oneself and restore your equilibrium. I would suggest that you meditate on your Being and pray. Visualize how incredibly beautiful the Being is. Work with that as an antidote. Not only that, but see the Being in every other person. When you really start to come out of your cage (where it is all about “me”) and you see that your Being is amazing, beautiful, and you realize, “Hey, he has that inside, too; she has that, too.” There is a chance for that to be revealed in everyone. That should give us a lot of energy and a lot of hope. We need to find those types of antidotes.
For myself, when I find myself getting into those states, I start again as a beginner. I generally do that anyway when I sit to meditate. I do not sit to meditate as if I know what I am doing, because I really do not. I sincerely do not think I know what I am doing. When I sit to meditate, I start from zero, knowing nothing. I have an attitude of, “Where am I? Who am I? What am I doing here? What can I do to change it?” I test the principles of meditation practice. I go through the steps of meditation stage by stage, and I test the principles. That has helped me to be practical, and experience results.
Instead of falling into that state, we need to find antidotes.
Audience: How often do you suggest practicing Pranayama? Also is it true you can experience the sexual energy through the chakras by visualizing it rising up?
Instructor: One can practice pranayama as much as one wants. It is similar to breathing. One needs to breathe. Pranayama is a type of breath combined with visualization and mantra in order to transform energy. The sexual energy is constantly being produced in the body, not only physically but vitally, and so that energy is always building. The more effectively you work to transform energy, the more you can keep it under control. For pranayama, you can do it as much as you like. For sexual magic, it is another story: at the most, once per day.
Is it true that you can raise the sexual energy through visualization? Yes. It is true. In order to do that, first you have to have energy available. If you save it, you can raise it. With experience and with practice, you will be able to verify that for yourself. It is not an illusion, it is something you can experience.
Audience: If a person has not learned how to truly meditate and are a beginner and are going through these stages of death, if you haven’t reached that level and are starting from the beginning do you go through it in a superficial way in the level that you are able to see it?
Instructor: The beginner always begins where the beginner is. The stages still apply. Someone who is beginning in these studies and is working to observe themselves and gather information about the ego and is conserving their sexual energy in order to defeat those egos can defeat egos relative to the amount of energy and comprehension they have acquired: meaning, at the level of a beginner. The reach and power of that energy will naturally be shallow, but there is still progress that can be made. The more you develop, the deeper you can go. Each of us can only work on those egos that we can perceive. For the beginer, that is of course only what is being perceived from the physical body. That is the most superficial level. If you really want to get into the depths of the mind, you need to learn how to meditate. By meditation I mean to awaken consciousness and perceive other dimensions. Anyone can do that. The consciousness in itself has that capability. We have to develop it, awaken it, and restore it.
A single person who works very rigorously, with a lot of dedication, meditating hours a day, dedicating all of their energy towards this work, can in a due course eliminate a huge percentage of their ego, but not the entirety of it. They can become what we might call “a saint.” But, they cannot become what we call “a Buddha.” To reach that level, you have to work with a partner in sexual cooperation, because that is the only way you can cultivate the vessels that reflect the radiance and wisdom of a Buddha, and therefore penetrate deeper into the ego. Like everything else in nature, the work occurs in stages.
The bottom line is: start where you are, work to the best of your ability, and work to go deeper. Learn to meditate. Meditation is absolutely essential. Without meditation, this work cannot be accomplished. Those who do not learn to meditate always remain on the surface, in the shallowest regions.