This is a transcription of the audio lecture Gnosis of Buddha Dharma 10 The Three Jewels, Part 1 originally given live on Gnostic Radio, which you can download for free.
In the tradition of Buddhism, the students who enter into the study and practice of the teachings of the Buddha always perform a certain kind of ceremony, which varies among the different schools, but which is universally called "taking refuge." They take refuge in the Three Jewels or the Three Treasures or the Triple Gem. In Sanskrit this is called Triratna, which means Three Jewels or Three Treasures. When a person takes refuge they make a vow or repeat a prayer which says, in its essence, "I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha." These are the Three Jewels: Buddha, Dharma, Sangha. And that is the order in which they are stated.
Usually, the person who takes refuge, who takes this vow, or repeats this prayer is doing so because they have received some instruction or guidance or they have become inspired by the teachings of the Buddha. They repeat this prayer in order to emphasize their own aspiration, to receive protection and guidance. This is what it means to take refuge. It means to protect oneself, to wrap oneself with the cloak or shield of the Three Jewels.
They are called Three Jewels because they are three very precious items just like the "pearl of great price" which Jesus spoke of in the Gospels, saying that if you find this pearl, this stone, this jewel, sell all that you have to get it, to keep it, to protect it, because it is so valuable. The Triple Gem - which is really one gem with three aspects - has that extraordinary value. It is these three, Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, which give us the ability to walk the path, to actually achieve some kind of understanding, or realization.
The Three Jewels have levels of meaning. Anyone who has studied Buddhism understands at least the outer or public aspect. They would understand that the Buddha, the First Jewel, would be the founder of Buddhism, the teacher, the one who first transmitted that Voice of the Lion, the Roar of the Lion: the Dharma. The Dharma, which is the Second Jewel, is the teaching, constituted primarily by the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, which provide the assistance and guidance to lead the suffering soul out of suffering. Then the third, the Sangha, in its outer aspect, the public aspect, would be the spiritual community of like-minded people. This is the common, literal understanding of the Three Jewels. This understanding, or this definition, is common to all the schools of Buddhism. Because of the simplicity of this Triple Gem, in its outer aspect, you can see a comparable structure in pretty much any religion. You always have a teacher, you have a teaching, and you have a community. But again, this is the outer aspect, the literal aspect, which has its usefulness, but it is not our primary interest.
To really understand what it means to Take Refuge, to find one's safe haven in these Three Jewels, we have to go deeper than the literal meaning. We have to penetrate into the inner meaning, and then into the secret meaning. And these are of course, levels of understanding what the Triple Gems signify. For us to do so, we have to first of all understand something about Dharma in general, or gnosis.
The main thing that we have to grasp, firstly, is that we have within us the consciousness; we have an Essence, the tathagatha-garbha, which is the Buddha nature. The Buddha nature is that free consciousness, the embryo from which we can elaborate our complete development. This is the most fundamental thing that we have to understand: inside of us is the potential to become a fully awakened Buddha. Fully developed. Completely gone beyond suffering. Without any afflictions. Without any doubts. Without any anxieties. That capacity is within each one of us. This is the most important thing that we need to understand. And this is not simply an intellectual understanding. It is practical. Before we can comprehend anything about the Three Jewels or about Taking Refuge, we have to know how to work with our consciousness. It is through working with and experiencing the nature of our own consciousness that our own comprehension begins to blossom.
This Buddha nature has, as its fundamental essence, luminosity, clarity, perception. Stated in another way, we know that the consciousness in its essence, in its base nature, is radiant and clear, free and happy, at complete peace, with complete serenity. An embodiment of love. Pure. And all of us have that, to some degree or another, within. This is the first fundamental thing that we need to begin to really understand practically: to learn how to work with the consciousness, from moment to moment. Not just in a theoretical way, and not just as an interesting experiment, but as something that we actively work with continually.
The second fundamental thing that we have to understand is that our consciousness is trapped in the ego, and that this ego modifies or conditions the consciousness. We call this ego, aggregates, afflictions, negative emotions, but this is the base of suffering, this is why we have suffering. The main thing to comprehend about this conditioned state is that it is possible to end it. It is possible to free the Buddha nature or the consciousness from affliction. And this is what the Four Noble Truths present, the most basic teaching of Buddhism: there is suffering, but there is also a way to come out of it.
The third point is that we need to understand that science or path, that there is a science to transform the mind, a science that we can use to transform the ego, the afflictions, negative emotions, and transmute them, to change them into something else, to end the affliction. So these three understandings are the most basic fundamentals that we need to understand practically, in our experience, in order to penetrate into the deeper meaning of the Triple Gem. Without this, without the practical experience of our Buddha nature, without the practical experience of seeing how our ego works, and knowing that there is a way to end the affliction is imposes upon us, and without actively working with that science to end that affliction in our own mind, we cannot comprehend the true nature of what a Buddha is, or what the Dharma is, or what the Sangha is.
These three understandings, in their synthesis, are the Dharma, itself. Dharma comes from the root word in Sanskrit, ‘dhar,' which means "to hold." And that is why when we talk about Dharma, we talk about a law or a truth or something fundamental, something true. Because a truth holds; it has solidity, it has strength, it has reality. Dharma, in itself, is knowledge of truth. To acquire that requires that we make the effort to do so; to acquire that knowledge of truth through our own experience, consciously, not just theoretically.
When we study the Dharma, what we are studying are these three understandings and how to deepen our practical experience of these three understandings. But ultimately our goal in studying Dharma is to acquire our own experience of that truth, to know that Dharma for ourselves. And when we study the Gnostic Dharma - and by Gnostic Dharma I mean: (a) gnostic in terms of personal experience, knowledge that we acquire through our own consciousness and (b) Dharma is truth. So to say "Gnostic Dharma" is to have our own conscious, direct experience of the fundamental law, the fundamental truth. And that Gnostic Dharma can be called many other things. It may be called Buddhism or Christianity, Sufism, Islam; it does not matter about those names. What matters is whether that science, used practically, helps us awaken our own consciousness and begin to overcome suffering in our own mind.
When we get into really acquiring the practical experience of our own consciousness and freeing it from the ego, really awakening the consciousness, we start to understand something about the depth of teaching in the Dharma. So it is good for us to first really see and understand what Dharma means.
Dharma as a word, in itself, has two main aspects. I explained to you that it literally means truth or law, but the ultimate statement of Dharma is that the end of suffering is achievable, that there is a state of being free of suffering. There is a state of existence, a state of consciousness, which is beyond suffering. So we would say this is the fact of or the prospect of what in Buddhism is called "true cessation." Cessation in this case is referring to the end of afflictive emotion, the end of afflictive thought, and the end of afflictive action or sensation. Cessation means "a stopping of activity; serenity, peace, equanimity." So true cessation would be Dharmic Realization. It is another way to say the same thing. This would be a perfect serenity, a perfect mind: a Vajrasattva. A Diamond Soul is an ultimate expression of true cessation. Another word for it is Dharma-kaya. The Dharma-kaya is the "truth body of the Buddha." This is the highest aspect, the highest function, the highest body or vehicle through which a Buddha can express himself.
The second use of the word Dharma refers to the path to achieve this state of cessation. So we need to see these two aspects of the word, because we use them interchangeably, Dharma as a state of being and Dharma as a path. But in reality, when we talk about it, in both cases what we are talking about is that we have to acquire our own conscious experience of that. It is not enough to just believe this or have faith in it, or accept it or reject it in the mind. Dharma in itself has to become Gnostic, to be something experiential, both as a path and as a state of being.
This state of existence, of Dharma, of cessation, can only be acquired through paths that understand it. What I am saying here is explicit: not all religions teach how to reach full cessation or awakening, not all beliefs, not all theories, not all movements, not even all of Buddhism. If a school or a teaching or a teacher or a doctrine does not teach and express an understanding or comprehension of the nature of cessation, they cannot lead you to it. This needs to be explicitly understood. Many people nowadays try to build their own religion, to read different books, different teachers, different ideas, and to put together their own concept of what religion is or what God is, and this is fundamentally mistaken.
What we all have to grasp is that our own mind put us in the situation of suffering and ignorance that we are in, thus we cannot rely on our mind to get us out. We have to rely on something else. This is why the Three Jewels are so important. The Three Jewels provide a refuge within which our consciousness can be protected from our own faulty mind. The enemy that we have is ourselves, our own mistaken perceptions, and our own mistaken view. We suffer because of our own mistakes, because of our own misperceptions, and so long as we persist in refusing to see that, our suffering will only become worse.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that life will just continue the way it is, or fall into this illusion that somehow life is just going to get better. Many believe somehow in the future life will be better than it is now. This is a lie. What will be, will be a result of what is done now. Everything that is, is a result of causes. Causes that we are producing now, produce the effects that we will experience later.
What we have to grasp is that we are in the situation that we are in now because we made it: our suffering, in doubt, in fear, with anxiety, with stress, with illnesses, both physical and emotional, mental; with anger, with lust, with the uncertainty of death hanging over us. We have all of those problems because of our own mind, because of our own actions; we cannot blame someone else. And because of that, if we continue to behave the way we have been, then our problems will only multiply.
The thing we have to grasp is that our suffering originated because of our own activities. This is why we need gnosis, our own conscious experience of truth, our own direct experience, not to just believe someone, not to just accept what they say or reject what they say, but to experience it. This is the only way that we can make a fundamental change. Through our own experience.
A belief does not remove suffering. There are many people who believe in Jesus, or who believe in Buddha, who believe in Mohammed, or Moses, and they still suffer terribly. Mere belief does not conquer suffering.
Another way to look at the word Dharma is by its definition as "action." Dharma is a way of acting, a way of behaving. And that is what we need. We need a type of action that produces new consequences, new results. One way we can see that is, through the course of our lifetime, we may have changed our beliefs many times, learning new things, being exposed to new things, and having different kinds of experiences. We learned different beliefs. If we look at it just from the religious point of view, people now have changed religions a few times in their lives. They may grow up Christian then begin to study Hinduism or Buddhism or even convert to being a part of Judaism or Mormon, and this really, without conscious action to change, is just about the same thing as changing your clothes. People really look to just change the appearances or change their beliefs in order to try to comfort themselves or to avoid seeing their fear. This is common in many religions, religions that really emphasize the need to be afraid. And so people come there hoping that if they believe in the religion, their fears will be absolved; hoping that by having faith in their given religion they will not need to be afraid anymore. This is really misleading. The cause for fear is the nature of the mind that we have. It is the nature of our mind that produces our suffering. As long as that mind has not been changed for the better, suffering will result. It does not matter what you believe. It does not matter what I believe. It matters what we do, how we act, how we change.
Emptiness and Suffering
What Dharma says, any real Dharma, any real teaching, any real path, says that the cessation of suffering arises spontaneously and naturally when the consciousness comprehends, when the consciousness awakens, when the consciousness sees the truth, suffering begins to be resolved. The highest form of that perception is to perceive the nature of truth, Dharma, the nature of reality. Any true Gnostic Dharma, whether it is called Buddhism or Hinduism or Gnosticism, states that ultimate truth, ultimate Dharma, is Emptiness. It is the Doctrine, the Dharma, of the Void: Shunyata, the Absolute. This is why when we study Kabbalah, at the top of the Tree of Life, we see the Absolute, the Absolute Abstract Space, which is a primordial nothingness, or emptiness, or void. But it is not void and emptiness the way our intellect thinks of it. It is very difficult to describe this in words, but it is the ultimate comprehension of Dharma.
To end suffering, we need to comprehend the nature of the Absolute. It seems very simple, stated that way, but to do it takes a lot of work. That work is on ourselves, not outside. To do that, we can start by looking at suffering itself.
We know that suffering has two principle causes. The first one is karma. Karma is a Sanskrit word that basically means cause and effect, or the law of action and consequence. We suffer because of the consequences that we are experiencing now for our own mistakes, our own actions. And that is the end of it; that is simply a law. It is just like a law of physics. When we set in motion a given energy, that energy reacts, it moves, according to the laws that govern nature. There is no way to escape that. You cannot escape it. Karma is karma; it is the law. And all the different religions in the world state this. In the Bible it say it many ways. The simplest is ‘every man will reap what he sows', meaning that you will receive according to your actions. It is a very simple thing to understand intellectually, but it is very difficult to understand emotionally, to understand consciously, for if we did we would not be acting the way we are now. So the first cause of suffering is just that, it is us experiencing the karma that we ourselves set in motion.
The second cause of suffering is all the afflictive emotions, thoughts, and sensations that cause karma and that result from karma.
- Intellectual brain: thoughts
- Emotional brain: feelings
- Motor-instinctual-sexual brain: sensations
These afflicted emotions, negative emotions, or egos, manifest in our three brains, within our own psychology in the form of ‘I's.' We call them ‘I's,' we call them egos, but really these are just thoughts and feelings and sensations, impulses that arise within us from moment to moment and they change according to circumstances; there is no order in them, there is no predicting them, there is no way to outline them or to diagram them. They are a chaos; they have many faces; many of them look like our best friends. Many of them we hold dearly, and believe them to be our true self. This is the problem. We grasp at a self that is not real. This is the cause of suffering.
You can synthesize these two causes, karma and affliction, into this: self-grasping. Self-grasping is the root cause of suffering. We have a mistaken perception of ourselves and this has many, many levels, it is very deep. Our mind is very deep.
Some of these psychological aspects are quite shallow and visible to us. Primarily, the personality that we have is very shallow and visible; our personality is something that we develop within this body, within this lifetime. It is related to where we were born, how we were raised, our name, our race, our culture, our heritage, our education. In other lectures we discuss these things-genotype, paratype, and phenotype, the three aspects of the personality. These are some of the most easily seen ways that we grasp at a self that is not real. To see beyond that, to really penetrate into the nature of this mistaken belief, is to begin to acquire Dharma for ourselves, to see the truth, to start to develop Right View.
In its ultimate expression, Right View is the penetrating, direct, conscious perception of Emptiness, the Absolute itself, at the base of all existence. Right View is the first step of the Eightfold Path, the very first one, and so it is something that we need to begin now. Remember at the beginning of the lecture I was telling you that to understand the Three Jewels, the first thing we have to do is to understand our own consciousness, to begin to work with it. And this is Right View. This requires that we start to awaken ourselves from this delusion of self, which is a lie. It is a lie against ourselves. Right View is clear conscious perception at our level. And Right View deepens as we utilize the other seven steps of that path, until we reach the ultimate Right View, which is direct perception of the Absolute. An enlightened being, a fully awakened being, simultaneously sees the visible aspect of the thing and the Empty aspect, the Void or Absolute aspect. An awakened being sees both at the same time, without any confusion. And this is possible for us to reach. Our own Buddha nature can be developed to have that ability. So, Correct View or Right View is what we use as the antidote to self-grasping. Correct View, Right View, is the understanding of Emptiness. So let us talk about that a little bit.
This idea or concept of Emptiness has some subtleties in the philosophy and, unfortunately, many people who study the Absolute or Emptiness (which can also be called Dependent Origination) believe that once they have got the idea in the mind, that they have comprehended it, and that they are done. This is a mistake. The comprehension of the Emptiness or the Void aspect of any existing thing is an experience of the consciousness. It is not something in the mind; it is not something in the intellect. It is experienced consciously, with perception. This is something different than just an intellectual idea. We arrive at realization of Emptiness through our own consciousness.
Remember I was stating before that the quality we need to recognize about our consciousness, about our Buddha nature, is that it is luminous, it is perception, it is the ability to perceive, but without conditioning. It is that ability that the consciousness has that ultimately can penetrate throughout all the levels of existence and see them all at the same time. Right now, physically, we perceive physical matter and energy. In some way, even though none of us can really explain it, we also perceive other kinds of energy and matter, but we do not understand it. We all know that, right now, we have feelings, emotions, and we have thoughts, and we perceive them, but we do not know how. We think it is the brain; we have a theory that it is the brain, but it is not. It is the consciousness that is able to perceive that. And in the same way, the consciousness can go beyond and begin to perceive other things that are not physical. This is a matter of work though.
Where we are now, by looking at and observing those thoughts and feelings and different kinds of sensations and impulses that arise in us, that observation in itself can be the key to unraveling the whole knot of our existence: by looking at our own mind. If you observe yourself now and just pay attention, you see that the consciousness itself is just there; all it depends upon is your attentiveness. It does not originate from anywhere else but that: being attentive. It is not dependent upon anything else but that. You can direct that attentiveness, you can guide it, control it, and you do this all the time as you pay attention to different things. But our mistake is that we do not consciously exercise that control. We allow our consciousness to be carried around by all the different elements that surge in our own mind. This is the first thing we have to change. This is the mistake that we make. It is a mistake because, in our psychological house, we have these three brains, and surging in these three brains from moment to moment are thoughts and emotions and sensations that are arising from somewhere, that manifest for a given period, in the form of thoughts, in the form of feelings, and in the form of the impulses or sensations that we feel. And we just accept it. We just very lazily go along. And then new thoughts and new feelings and new sensations arise and the first ones pass away. And there is this arising and passing continually, sometimes faster, sometimes slower. This stream of energy that is moving through our three brains needs to be managed consciously. We need to take control of the mind; this is why attentiveness is so important. We do that first by starting to pay attention to the mind; watching the mind, observing the mind, noticing at all times what is arising and passing as thought, as emotion, as sensation.
You may not really get what I am explaining, but if you have ever tried to meditate, then you will know exactly what I am talking about. When you begin the attempt to meditate, the first thing that you are confronted with is that you cannot stop the mind. As much as you try, the mind will not obey. And there you are trying to be serene, to be focused, to concentrate yourself, and not think, and all you can do is think, and this can be very distressing. So a lot of people who are interested in meditation will go searching all over the place for different techniques, different teachers, books, schools, ideas, and theories, thinking all the while that the problem is the technique. "I just can't meditate, that technique doesn't work for me", or "that way doesn't work for me", or "that style doesn't work for me", or "I just don't get it, and it just doesn't happen", "I must try a new teacher; try a new place, a new school, a new book..." The problem is not the techniques. The problem is your own mind. The mind is a chaos because all day long you are not governing your mind consciously. The mind is accustomed to doing whatever it wants. By mind I mean, ego, all these elements in the mind. So when you do sit to meditate, what you watch, what you see, is this cacophony of voices, like a great crowd. And sometimes one voice will come and talk about something, a memory or a recollection, or a longing, and then, after a moment, another voice will come, with a different longing, or a fear, or a worry, then another one will come, with something we forgot to do, something we really need to take care of. And it goes like this; all these conflicting, contradictory memories, desires, interests, recollections, fears, and worries. This seems normal to us, but it is not normal. This is the cause of suffering.
All those elements that surge in your mind are desires that do not know anything about the law of karma, and do not care. All they know about is their own desire, and each desire can only act based on its desire. And you can see this in a simple example: when you become angry. When anger takes control of your three brains, all you can think about is satisfying that anger, punishing the person who made you angry. If someone cuts you off while you are driving, all you can think about is retribution; how can you make them suffer; how can you make them pay what they owe for being in front of your car. Or if someone is rude to you, or steals from you, or gossips about you, these desires arise. "How can I make them pay?" "How can I have vengeance?" Unfortunately, because we do not question these thoughts and emotions, these impulses to act, we act on them. We entertain the thoughts, and we allow the feelings to manifest in our heart, and we act on them physically to some degree or another. And in each of these three ways we produce karma. We create results for ourselves and maybe for someone else. This is why our consciousness becomes fully trapped and conditioned in the ego and this is why we suffer.
Really, we are marionettes, puppets. We have very little willpower, very little free willpower that can act in the right way. As soon as we have that impulse to do something right, to do something in the right way, a lot of other egos come up: fear, doubt, what will people say, what will they think, what will happen, what if I am wrong, maybe it is not in accordance with Dharma, maybe I will get more karma. This is all intellect. The consciousness we have is weak because of this conditioning.
When we begin to see this state of affairs in ourselves, to really see it, not just to hear about this and think, "yeah, that makes sense..", but to actually, consciously, see it happening in our life, we start to have realization. This is what a realization means: a realization is a conscious experience of truth. It is when a light bulb comes on, consciously, and perhaps you get a chill, a shock, and you feel something changes. You change. This is called realization. This is a little bit of waking up. This can only happen if you are working with the consciousness. You can have some experiences that feel like this, for example, when you first hear a teaching like this, it may stun you, it may shock you, and you might feel this shift in your mind, but it may just be in your mind. That is the danger. We have to go beyond that, to actually experience it, to observe it in our own life.
When that realization goes deeper, it starts to lead towards self-realization. This is a very common phrase, "self-realization," but, it seems to me, it is really poorly used. Most of the time when you hear ‘self-realization' it is being used by people who believe there is a self to realize, and this is a mistake. From the point of view of any Gnostic Dharma, the self is empty.
Many people in Hinduism, for example, believe in what is called Atman, and we talk about Atman in Gnosis, we talk about the Being. Many Gnostics believe very much in the Being, the Innermost, and they say "my Being is this master or that master or this angel or that angel." Many Christians believe in a Father in heaven. All the religions have this concept of an Inner Self, a Higher Self. What we need to grasp, to really conquer suffering, is that this form of self, the Innermost, the Being, God, does not have an "I." This Being, God, is not an individual the way we think of individuality. The mind that we have with this self-grasping, makes God into another "I," another ego, another delusion. This is why we have before us the great danger of mythomania. Someone who is a mythomaniac has built an idol in their mind that they call their Inner Being and they worship it, but it is just an ego; it is an "I."
Existence and Emptiness
To understand this we can look at the Tree of Life; we can look at our own psychology to grasp what this means. To really comprehend the doctrine of Emptiness, we have to use our consciousness to observe ourselves. If you observe yourself now you see that you are sitting or standing or lying down in a physical body. Most of the time, we go from moment to moment and day to day with the assumption that this physical body is real, that it exists. And we are right to a degree; conventionally it does exist, we can experience this physical body, as we are now experiencing it. But, if we look deeper, if we observe ourselves consciously, we see that this physical body is actually incredibly fragile, it is incredibly dependent; it cannot exist independently, on its own. This is what we forget; this is the mistake of self-grasping, not only physically but mentally, psychologically. In the same way that we think that our physical body exists independently and that we can do whatever we want with it, we think we can do that with our mind, with our thoughts and feelings, but we are not looking deep enough. In other words, we are asleep as a consciousness.
So look at this body that you are in now. It was born at a certain time; when that happened, you were put into an environment in which you were enormously dependent on outside forces for your development, for your health, for your growth. Little by little, this idea or belief in independence begins to develop. We begin to feel that we can do with this body whatever we want; go where we want, do what we want, without any consequences. We forget that this body is very dependent-on food, on this physical environment, the laws that manage physical existence, on water, on air, on each other. Everything you have eaten or will eat came from someone else and came from nature. The air that you are breathing now has passed through the lungs of many other people and through the bodies of plants. The water that you drink has come from this earth and has passed through many organisms in its transformations. The clothes you wear, the place you live in, the books you read, everything came from someone's work, and yet we forget that. We forget how much we depend on so many circumstances, so many other factors that we just totally ignore, all because we are grasping at this self that believes itself to be independent.
The most tragic thing though, is that we fail to realize, to have the realization, conscious realization, that this body will die, maybe today, maybe tomorrow, maybe in fifty years; we do not know. But if you look at your physical body from this point of view and you see it depends on many things to exist, then you can understand the teaching called Dependent Origination. This is what Emptiness means. The Doctrine of Emptiness states nothing exists independently. Nothing. Everything that exists depends upon causes and conditions. But, our self-grasping fails to perceive that and believes in our independent existence and so, we believe in our anger, we encourage our anger, we love our anger, and we think we can be angry without consequence. We think we can be lustful without consequence. We do not realize the effect that those forces have on ourselves and on other people.
Going a little deeper, we say, "what about my thoughts and emotions?"; we believe these things to have reality. But when you meditate, when you really watch yourself, you see that thoughts arise and pass away; emotions arise and pass away. Why are we so enslaved by them when they are so impermanent, so transitory? Why do we become so victimized by emotions and thoughts and sensations when they are so illusory, impermanent, and unreliable? Part of what we can do is to start looking deeper into these experiences to see: does this feeling really exist?
Thoughts and emotions are related to the mental body and the astral body, respectively. We can call these bodies of the soul, and many people believe that the soul is permanent and immortal and exists independently and so they believe that the soul is the self. Many believe and say, "My soul is the self, and it is immortal." The Doctrine of Dharma says no, this is not true. Even your soul is dependent. Even if you have the solar bodies, they are not immortal, immutable, independent: in their base, there is no self in them.
If you look at the Tree of Life you see our physical body (Malkuth), which came through our parents, dependent on those parents, dependent on physical laws, physical matter, physical energy. Our astral body and mental body arise and sustain themselves in the fifth dimension and depend upon the laws of that dimension, depend upon that level of nature for their existence. If that level of nature is not present, those bodies cannot be present. The causal body, Tiphereth, which is where our consciousness emanates from, exists in the sixth dimension. Many Gnostics say, "this is the human soul, this is my real self." Gnostic Dharma says no, it is not; the human soul is also dependent upon that sixth dimension. And if that sixth dimension is not in manifestation, where is your self? It is not there. Likewise many say Geburah, Buddhi, the Divine Consciousness is my Real Self, or Atman, Chesed, the Innermost is my Real Self. And again we find that these aspects of consciousness, of the soul, of the spirit, of our own psychology, are not independently existent. They are dependent on causes and conditions. So where is a permanent self? Even the Innermost Himself, our own Inner Buddha, depends upon his root, which is the Trikaya, the three spheres above, the three supernals, the Logos, the Word. Even our own Spirit does not exist independently, free of causes and conditions. Where is the real self in all of this? Where is permanence; where is something eternal? The Absolute. The Emptiness. The Void. The Root.
But the Absolute is a state of existence that is non-existence. It is a state of Being that is non-being. This is why Samael Aun Weor stated over and over "the Being is non-being." The Being has no kind of "I." The Being is impersonal, is love. This is the ultimate expression of Gnostic Dharma.
It is the direct, conscious perception of this truth that is the ultimate end of suffering. And when we have that ability to directly, consciously, perceive this fact, in our own mind, we have reached a state of being which is deeply profound, which is beyond suffering and which, in turn, benefits all life. This is the goal that we have: to reach that degree of consciousness. To develop the ability to experience this for ourselves. The way we do it is Dharma, the path. We walk the dharmic path to acquire dharmic gnosis, direct knowledge of the nature of the Absolute. And in this way to see the two truths (Existence and Non-existence) simultaneously. Yes, we need this physical body to do our work; we need an astral body to do our work, we need a mental body, a causal body, buddhic body, atmic body. We need the trikaya, the bodies of the Buddha. But: we must never make of any of them an "I." We must always perceive the empty nature of self.
The consciousness in itself is empty. We can begin to experience this now. Observe yourself. Learn how your consciousness works. Watch your mind. Separating the consciousness from the mind is what gives us the ability to begin to taste the truth of what is within, to experience it. But if your consciousness is absorbed in the mind, trapped in the personality, you cannot.
When we meditate, when we observe ourselves, we have to separate our consciousness from all of the manifestations that arise, whether external or internal, to keep a sense of separation, a division of attention. Whatever is happening physically around us, we must not be identified; we must have the consciousness distinct, separate. Whatever thoughts, whatever emotions, whatever sensations arise, we need to have the consciousness distinct, separate, observing, not identified, not absorbed, not trapped, not enslaved in fear or lust, anger, doubt, resentment. In that way we begin to see directly, experientially, that the ego does not exist.
Now how can I say that? We talk about the ego in every lecture. But in reality, the ego does not exist. It only exists because we believe it does, because we empower it. We give it energy, we give it truth, because we give it our consciousness. When our desire for a new house comes up, our desire for a new place to live, a new job, a new car, a new spouse, we put our consciousness inside of that desire, because we want to experience the sensations of that desire. We want to be absorbed in those sensations because we think we will find happiness there. We forget that all of those circumstantial things will die, will cease to exist. We may need those things; we need a house, we need a car, we need a spouse, we need a job, but more than that we need to not be identified with them, to not put our consciousness inside the desire and leave it there. When we separate the consciousness, and those desires arise, we can see that those desires are fundamentally empty. They have energy, they have matter, but why should we empower them? Why should we give them the power to rule our psychological house, and in turn, create more karma?
Little by little, through this approach, we begin to strip away the cage of grasping at a false sense of self. We begin to experience the true nature of consciousness, which is undefiled, free, pure, luminous, clear, unmodified, unconditioned. Its hallmark is joy. Joy, happiness, compassion, wisdom, patience, diligence, chastity, love. These are all within us, if we make the effort to bring them out, to free them from the cage we put them in. When we consciously, experientially, are doing it, separating the consciousness from the ego, using the science to transmute the ego, to transform it, we are becoming awakened, we are becoming something more than an animal. We start to acquire the state of being a member of the Sangha.
This is the inner meaning of Sangha. The Sangha, in its inner meaning, is the conscious circle of humanity: awakened, conscious beings, who at their own level, their own degree, are becoming free of suffering, who are comprehending the cessation of suffering and who are penetrating into the direct, experiential knowledge of Emptiness. This is the Sangha. Some people call it the White Lodge, or the Gnostic Church; some people call them angels, devas, Buddhas, and bodhisattvas, heroes, prophets, avatars. The Sangha is simply the conscious circle of humanity who have acquired experience in Gnostic Dharma and who are working to deepen that, to perfect that in themselves.
When we, as practitioners, are performing the Dharma and are experiencing the Dharma and advancing ourselves into belonging to that Sangha, then we are truly taking refuge. This is the real meaning of taking refuge. It is experiential. It is good for us to pray, to make the intention to take refuge in the Three Jewels. It is good for us to have that aspiration. But to actualize it means we work with the consciousness: we eliminate the ego, we create the soul, and we sacrifice ourselves to help others.
The Sangha in its outer, literal form is constituted by all of the like-minded individuals who are pursuing the Dharma. It can be our school, it can be our friends, it may be even our family, it can be people that we know. But this is the outer meaning. The inner meaning is that circle of conscious beings who actually have experienced the Dharma, who have direct knowledge of Dharma, who are awakening their consciousness, free of conditioning. And when we begin to experience that, to communicate with the Sangha, the real Sangha, the inner meaning of Sangha, when we have experiences, consciously, learning from an awakened master, learning from a true guru, we start to comprehend what a Buddha is. We cannot understand the Buddha until we have had that experience.
So do you see the structure?
- By practicing Dharma, we acquire knowledge of Dharma: conscious knowledge.
- With that conscious knowledge (Gnosis) we begin to experience consciously what Sangha really is: those who are actualizing Dharma in themselves.
- And when we see and experience what Sangha really is, then and only then can we begin to see and understand what a Buddha is: a being who has perfected the Dharma in themselves.
The Sanskrit word "Buddha" means "awakened one." Strictly speaking, this term never refers to the human personality or to the human soul. It is a title bestowed upon the Innermost (Chesed). There are many levels of Buddhas. The Monad acquires the title "Buddha" when the Human Soul has created the Solar Mental Body (Netzach). From then onwards, the Monad will acquire higher degrees of Buddhahood in accordance with the work the Human Soul does to awaken the consciousness and eliminate obscuration (ego, desire). The first degrees of Buddhahood correspond to Nirvana and its "halls." The higher degrees of Buddhahood are accessible only to those who renounce Nirvana and enter into the Direct Path to the Absolute: The Path of the Bodhisattva.
The ultimate expression of Buddha is Dharmakaya: the body of the Buddha related to the sphere of Kether, but which is really beyond that. This is attainable only by a being who walks on the Direct Path. The Dharmakaya is the body of a being who is an inhabitant of the Absolute, an inhabitant of Emptiness. This is unimaginable to our mind; it makes no sense to our mind, but your consciousness can experience it, no matter what level you are in now; you can experience that, if you meditate, if you make an effort, if you work with your consciousness. You can experience any sphere on the Tree of Life, you can experience the Absolute, even as a beginner, but it requires working with consciousness to do that, not just a belief.
The teachings we study in this tradition were given to us by the Logos Samael. A Logos is a cosmocreator, a being who is working in the level of the Trikayas, the bodies of the Buddha, which are related to the top three spheres on the Tree of Life. These teachings are very profound because they came from the Logos Samael, through his Buddha (Chesed), and from the pen and mouth of his bodhisattva Samael Aun Weor. In other words, this teaching comes from a Being who can show us to the door of the Absolute. Very few teachings contain the knowledge specific to such high degrees of attainment. There are many beautiful and respectable traditions, but very few with the knowledge and specifics related to acquiring very advance degrees of inner development.
A diversity of knowledge and degrees of attainment are also reflected in the Sangha. There are many members of the Sangha who are not Buddhas; they may be working toward that level, or may not be. There are many Buddhas in the Sangha who abide in Nirvana. And beyond them, there are those few Buddhas who work to reach higher and higher levels of realization of the nature of self: the Absolute. Each member of the Sangha offers their own experience as the basis of their teaching: and their teaching can only take you to the level they have reached. This is important for us to bear in mind, for as we learn from the many Buddhas and Masters who are helping us, we need to realize the nature and potential reach of their knowledge.
This becomes important when we begin to have experiences or enter into certain levels of work. We take refuge in the Buddha (the teacher) but need to look to the qualifications of that teacher. We take refuge in the Dharma (the teaching) but need to know how far that teaching can take us: does it reach to the Absolute? We take refuge in the Sangha (the community), but need to know the level of attainment of that Sangha: is it really serious? Or is it just a social club?
In each of these cases, mere physical observation is insufficient. We must learn how to discriminate based on conscious knowledge. We need to know consciously, not just based on sensory data, like perceptions or rumors or opinions. We cannot afford to take refuge in a teaching that is all fluff. We cannot afford to place our well-being in the hands of a teacher who has no development of the consciousness. We cannot afford to surround ourselves with people who call themselves spiritual but are just clowning around and acting holy. Life is too important, too fragile, too short: it is very important that we become serious about changing ourselves, and to do that, we have to be very serious about the help we rely upon to do it. Naturally, this is only possible if we make the effort to acquire our own experience of the truth.
By working with the Dharma consciously, and acquiring conscious experience of Dharma, we actually become a Gnostic. There are many people who study Gnosis or who study Buddhism, or study Taoism, and they call themselves Buddhist, Taoist, Christian, Muslim, a Jew. But really they are just that name or title as a matter of showing respect. We would call someone like that a Christian or a Buddhist, just as a kindness to them. But a real Christian has met, spoken with, and received teachings from Jesus, personally, consciously, experientially. A real Buddhist knows and communicates with Buddha. A real Gnostic has experiential, direct conscious knowledge of Gnosis, of Dharma. Anyone of us has the ability to have such experiences, because we all have a Buddha nature, we all have an Essence, we all have consciousness. To reach that is a matter of action, not belief, not just by putting on a Gnostic t-shirt, or waving a Gnostic flag, but by conscious action in ourselves. And not tomorrow; now, today, continually. We take refuge in the Three Jewels in this way.
We take refuge in the Dharma when we act in accordance with the Dharma, in accordance with truth. We take refuge in the Sangha when we become a member of it by actualizing Dharma in ourselves: by experiencing it. We take refuge in the Buddha when we meet the Buddha, but even more, when we become the Buddha and then we truly take refuge. In that state, there is no suffering. When we become a Buddha, a fully developed Buddha, then we have completely arrived at the ultimate realization of Dharma, which is true cessation, no suffering. This is equivalent to full comprehension of the nature of Emptiness. That state of being is a state of pure happiness. But it is not just happiness like a selfish happiness, like "oh, here I am," happy; it is a state of compassion. Think about that a little bit. Happiness does not exist in grasping after self. Happiness is found through compassion for others. And when that compassion for others is fully developed, then we have Dharmakaya, we are a fully developed Buddha. In other words, there is no self to love, there are only others to be loved.
Q: Suffering to us is a comfort... (inaudible)
A: It is very true. Your question or comment underscores the importance of meditation. When you say that we love our suffering, we do not want to leave our suffering, it is true. And this is why we continue to suffer; we think it is normal, we think it is life. In fact, there are people who use the statement of the Buddha that ‘life is suffering', as a justification. Like, "oh well, life is suffering, I might as well just keep on being greedy, and lustful, and an alcoholic." That is really sad.
The importance of meditation cannot be emphasized enough. We talk a lot about self-observation and learning about the ego, and we give you a sort of general idea of what that means, but you have to meditate yourself to really know what meditation means, because your ego is your own; it is your own karma, it is your own construction that you have to understand. If you limit yourself to just reading books, or just observing yourself, you will never grasp it, because you will only experience existing in that ego, or in that conditioning, or surrounded by it. Even if you are observing yourself and remembering yourself rigorously, you are still here, physical. Thus you can only know what can be seen physically.
Meditation is a doorway, and through that door you can enter into any sphere of the Tree of Life. By that experience you can taste what it means to not suffer: this is called Samadhi, the experience of the consciousness freed from the ego. That is all samadhi means. Samadhi can be translated as "ecstasy," although the actual, literal meaning of the word is, "to hold so that there is no movement." This refers to the practice of meditation where you develop very strong control over attention.
When you place the attention without wavering and all the chaos of the mind ceases to be so active, it begins to calm and the natural state of the mind will emerge. This is why it is so important to observe ourselves. By that inner separation, when we separate from the ego, consciously, we observe ourselves, what we are creating is a space of serenity inside, psychologically. Then we have to sustain it. If we do not sustain that space of serenity inside, it cannot be maintained, and it cannot arise in meditation. It only is sustained by effort, by a pressure that we apply inside. This pressure is related to the pineal gland. That pressure that we apply is the pressure to become cognizant, conscious, separate from all discursive experience; thoughts, feelings, emotions, sensations, external events, internal states--all of that is separate from that space of serenity, within where there is only emptiness, peace, no "I", just observation, just awareness.
That serene space, maintained, through the day, from moment to moment, continually, begins to become established, begins to become permanent. You have heard about the permanent centre of gravity? This is it. We need to develop a permanent centre of gravity in our consciousness, and this happens when all our actions, thoughts, feelings, emotions, and experiences are directed from that center of gravity in the consciousness, free of "I."
Only you can make this happen. You do not need books and teachers and schools and a lot of theories; you just need effort from moment to moment. When you make within yourself that psychological space of serene observation, you start to taste some freedom from the "I," because in that space there is no "I."
Then, when you meditate, you isolate yourself from all external phenomena, so then you are only dealing with the internal phenomena and the consciousness, and you continue separating; you observe the mind, you watch the mind, you do not get involved. You do not get involved with the mind; this is key. Keep observing, keep watching. Wait. Watch.
You train yourself for this all day long: you are in a store, you really want to buy something? Separate. Watch. Observe. If you walk away, you may find that you never think about that thing again, that you were so hungry to buy. You might find that if you bought it, you would take it home and forget about it, that you wasted some money. So learn to watch your feelings and thoughts and impulses in this way. See your body, thoughts, emotions and sensations as if they were someone else.
In the state of meditation, when that space of selflessness has been firmly established, and you observe the mind, and on the screen of the mind are passing all of the memories and thoughts and feelings and worries, and all of that stuff, if you continue and persist staying in that space of separation, eventually the mind gets tired, and it will stop, and something new comes. And that moment is when you experience Emptiness. It may not be the experience of the Absolute. It may not be the experience of Kether or Chokmah, or any of these elevated spheres. You may just experience a profound stillness, a sense of peace, simple joy. That experience is so crucial. It is in that way that you really begin to comprehend why the ego itself IS suffering, why our physical life is so delusional. You really can then comprehend the importance of Dharma, and the beauty of it, and the joy of it. And you can never have that experience unless you meditate. It is only in meditation when you isolate yourself from external phenomena that you can approach that doorway which is inside, that door of Samadhi.
Q: All we have to do is to just look within... just to simply observe our mind, to observe our thoughts, feelings, and emotions and in that way we begin to see where the true problem lies... it's not related to the other people in themselves.... correct?
A: Precisely. The problem is not with anyone else or outside things, it is our relationship with them; it is how we react to them.
A: Absolutely. The consciousness in itself is pure intuition.
A: That is a very good question. When I say that the ego does not exist, it is because it does not have a real existence. It exists conventionally, in the same way that in this moment, if you watch your mind, you can see that you have thoughts, and you have feelings, and those thoughts and feelings exist conventionally; not physically, even though their effects can be seen physically, but their actual matter cannot be seen physically. There is matter related to them and that matter exists in conventional truth, but not ultimate truth. Ultimately, in reality, the ego does not exist, it is a false creation; it is a lie. But the problem is, we have invested our consciousness into it, we have given it life; we need to take it back. The only one who can do that is our Divine Mother with the same power that we use to create that ego. The same power that we use to create the ego, we use to destroy it. This is why we know clearly that the Divine Mother is related to Binah. Binah is the Holy Spirit, Intelligence. Binah is the creator and the destroyer; Shiva, the creator of worlds and the destroyer of worlds. And this is where the energy ultimately finds its root. That is why we need our Divine Mother.
Let me make one more point about this emptiness of the ego. I have mentioned it in another lecture, but it is important to emphasize this. It is extremely easy to misunderstand the Doctrine of Emptiness. It is very easy for the mind to use it against us. Be cautious. Dharma is a matter of experiencing, not theorizing. I state it in such a grave way because there are many, many who hear this doctrine of Dependent Origination - pratitya-samutpada in Sanskrit - and they say, "Well, since the ego is empty of independent existence, why dissolve it; what is the point?" This is extremely deceptive because, intellectually, it makes sense; why not? Why not just ignore it? Why not just awaken the way we are and leave the ego alone, not worry about it, not be identified with it? That is a mistake. It is a philosophical trick which is used to deceive people. The ego exists in conventional truth. It is karma. You cannot ignore karma. If you try to awaken your consciousness and ignore karma, you will awaken as a demon. This is the definition of a demon: someone who awakens their consciousness, develops powers, but tries to get around the law of karma. This idea, this technique, is taught in every religion. It is called black tantra. On the surface they talk about wisdom, Dharma, gnosis, beauty, love, Buddha, Dharmakaya, all the same words. And they speak beautifully and they explain the doctrine in a very inspirational way, but they do not dissolve the ego.
Q: ...the upside down Tree of Life?
A: Exactly. It is the upside down Tree of Life. It is the teaching of Klipoth. What their teaching does, by ignoring the ego, or in other words, by taking advantage of the ego, which is really what they do, instead of dissolving the ego so that the soul or the spirit or the consciousness, however you want to call it, will naturally rise to the top, they utilize the ego to propel the consciousness down, and that is how you make a demon. They take advantage of the forces of desire to awaken the consciousness. Strangely, you find initiates of both sides of this equation, teaching in the same house. And this is true in Buddhism especially. There are schools of Buddhism where within one monastery, across the hall from each other, are two teachers, one teaching the white path, one teaching the black path. And they may be friends. It is strange, but it happens.
Q: Is our goal to not exist?
A: That is good. Yes, it is that in a way. It is to not exist as we are now. To be or not to be is the question, right? ...sort of a joke. The real answer is, yes, to not exist as we are. To not be identified with existence, but to go beyond it. This is to become a real Dharma-kaya, a real Buddha, as a being who has moved beyond existence, and who moves back and forth, between existence and non-existence, consciously, at will, because of love.