Through the course of this climactic night, the Buddha goes through four essential stages.
First, he penetrates through all of the levels of Samadhi. Samadhi is a state of awakened Consciousness, free of any ego. In Samadhi, there is no “I.” It is from this state of perception that Reality can be seen, comprehended, and understood. Only in this state can the Consciousness see the cage within which it is otherwise trapped: the cages of pride, lust, laziness, greed, envy, and more, which are the root psychological causes of suffering and cyclic existence. The ego cannot be comprehended so long as we remain within it. Meditation is the core tool of the spiritual aspirant, for it is only in a state of real Meditation that the ego can be seen and understood for what it is.
Second, he recollects all of his previous existences. While free of the affliction of the ego, the Buddha can clearly perceive past, present and future as an eternal now, without boundaries or obscurity. The recollection and comprehension of all of his past experiences is equivalent to the complete comprehension and elimination of karma. In other words, having seen and understood his egos in step one, he now comprehends the consequences he suffered for the actions of his egos. In this way, he understands why he should not act in those ways anymore.
Third, he implements the end of all his afflicted emotions: the ego is one hundred percent destroyed. Having seen and understood all of his egos (pride, lust, gluttony, etc) and comprehended them as the causes of all his karma, he now proceeds to their elimination, and becomes fully and completely free of all karmic debt. He is now free of the Wheel of Samsara, or cyclic existence.
Fourth, now free of the Wheel, he profoundly comprehends the entire cycle of life and death, the cycle of transmigration, which is propelled throughout time and space by the mistaken belief in an "I." The entire cycle of existence is symbolized in the Twelve Nidanas (pratityasamutpada), represented on the wheel of life by twelve stages around the outer ring.
At this moment he earns the title Shakyamuni. The term Shakyamuni can mean “the silent lion.” The astrological sign of Leo is the Sun of the Zodiac, and directly influences the development of our own heart and mind. That is the basis of the Buddha doctrine, the Buddhadharma: it is “the lion’s roar.”
These four stages are a synthesis of all of the work every initiate must complete. They are a literary symbol of lifetimes of psychological work.
I have no master
I am the self-born Buddha
Victorious over negative action
Therefore I am self-victorious.
At this point the Buddha, having realized these profound truths, felt that there was no one who could understand it, so he decided not to teach. All the Gods were astonished, because that was his purpose: to reach liberation in order to teach suffering humanity. Yet, having reached it, he decided not to teach what he learned. So all the Gods were in an uproar, begging him to teach, and they all approached him and entreated him to fulfill his vow to teach humanity. He refused, again and again, saying that there was no one who could understand what he understood; therefore, he refused to teach.
Keep in mind that we are studying the Tenth Great Deed, related to the number 10, the Arcanum 10, which is the wheel of destiny in the Tarot. This wheel represents the evolving and devolving cycles of nature; it is the vehicle of Karma. The Buddha refused to teach because he comprehended the Karma of the world: he comprehended that he should only act when it is in accordance with the Law of Karma. This can only be known by the awakened Consciousness. So, he refuses to teach until he knows that the time is right.
Then, Brahma came to him and said, “You must teach.” In Hinduism, Brahma is the Father of the Gods. In other words, the inner Father, the inner Being of the Buddha Shakyamuni, told him to teach. The bodhisattva did not teach until he was told to do so. This is a very significant aspect of this myth. How many people go out and present themselves as spiritual guides—who have not been told by their own inner Buddha to do so—who may have read a few books, gone to a few retreats, had a few visions, and now proclaim themselves as Masters, as Buddhas, and try to gather followers and establish a doctrine? How many of the celebrated “guides” have eliminated their egos? How many have conquered their desires? How many have awakened their Consciousness in the Light? It is sad to see spiritual people misled by their pride and ambition—and worse to see them teaching others while they themselves remain blind.
When the dark age of degeneration arrives, some people who claim to be practitioners will desire to teach others without having received permission.
Without having practiced themselves, they will instruct others in Meditation.
Without being liberated themselves, they will pretend to give instructions for liberation.
Without being devoid of self-interest, they will instruct others to cast way their fetters of attachment and be generous.
Without the slightest understanding of the good or evil of their own actions, they will spout clairvoyant statements about the good or evil fate of others.
Having no stability themselves, they will claim to be benefiting other beings.
I think there will be many who will pretend, be hypocritical, cheat, and deceive in the name of the Dharma. - Padmasambhava, Crystal Garland of Faultless Practice
But this great teacher—one of the greatest teachers in the history of humanity—refused to teach until he was told by his own inner Father to do so. Once he received that command, he proceeded to teach.He went out and first approached the five ascetics who he had practiced with during his period of austerity. This was the first teaching of Buddhism, what is called “the first turning of the wheel.” Remember, we are in the tenth stage, which relates to the Tenth Arcanum, the wheel of life. In Buddhism they call his first teaching, “The First Turning of the Wheel of Dharma,” represented by a wheel with eight spokes. The eight spokes represent the Eightfold Path, because the first teaching that the Buddha gave was about the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.
Levels of Instruction
Over the course of his time of teaching, the Buddha taught many levels of students, and provided each with the appropriate instruction. There are many levels of his teaching, and many groups corresponding to those levels. And, of course, each group claims to have the true transmission, each group claims to be the only authority, each group claims their own sutras or tantras to be the only true ones. This is a tragic result of the ego. Religion is universal. Buddha-dharma is universal. The teachings are given according to the psychology of the student.
As a whole, his teaching is called Buddha-dharma. The word dharma has a whole variety of meanings: it can mean truth, law, or phenomena.
In modern times, the Buddha’s teaching is organized into three primary groups. The first, and perhaps most common, has typically been called Hinayana. But that term is a little bit derogatory, because it means “the lesser vehicle” or “the inferior vehicle.” Yana is Sanskrit for “vehicle.” Another term, probably more polite, is Theravada. This branch of Buddhism is a sutra system, in other words, based on his public discourses, and is very widespread in Southeast Asia. It is constituted by a great variety of different schools, many of which are quite old, and all of them have teachings of great value.
The second vehicle is called the Mahayana, which means “the greater vehicle.” Mahayana Buddhism is widespread all over Asia: especially in China, Japan, and India.
The third is Vajrayana, or “the diamond vehicle.” It is also called Tantrayana or Mantrayana. This is the esoteric or initiatic level, commonly called Tantra.
So these are the three basic groups of the Buddha’s teachings present in these times, physically. These are more or less arranged by levels of complexity and depth. In synthesis, they share some fundamental aspects, which are important for us to grasp.
The Buddha taught that existence has three characteristics, or Dharma seals.
Together the three characteristics of existence are called ti-lakkhana, in Pali; or tri-laksana, in Sanskrit.
These three seals, or Dharma seals, form the basis of the entire teaching.
The first is called Dukkha (Sanskrit duhkha). This term basically means “unsatisfactoriness,” and sometimes is translated as “suffering.” What this means is that nothing in the world can bring satisfaction. No manifested thing can satisfy craving—not even psychological things can provide lasting satisfaction.
The second is called Anicca (Sanskrit anitya), and means “impermanence.” This is the characteristic that all existing conditioned things are impermanent, they rise and fall: they are born, they sustain briefly, and they die. Visualize a leaf growing on a tree. It dies and falls off the tree but is soon replaced by a new leaf. This is Anicca. Everything in conditioned existence is subject to the Law of Impermanence.
The third Dharma seal is Anatta (Sanskrit anatman) and this term, you see, has Atman (“self”) with the prefix An, and thus means “no self.” This aspect of the teaching says there is “no self” —or to be more specific, no independently existing self.
These three Dharma seals are synthesized in this statement by the Buddha:
“Whatever is impermanent is subject to change. Whatever is subject to change is subject to suffering.”
This comprehensive understanding provides the basis of every real religion.
To understand the nature of these three seals, you must meditate. To really comprehend them, you must meditate and awaken your Consciousness. The intellect cannot grasp the true meaning of unsatisfactoriness (1), impermanence (2), or no self (3). Only through Meditation can you experience these things, can you actually taste them, and know what they mean. It is absurd for dharma practitioners to adopt them as beliefs and argue and teach about them without every having experienced them consciously, in Meditation. All students should follow the example of the Buddha and realize direct personal experience of the Dharma before anything else.
From the basis of these three Dharma seals emerge all the traditions of Buddhism. What the Buddha taught is that, if all compounded things are in their essence lacking the capacity to satisfy, then they are all impermanent; and further, since it can be demonstrated that we have no independently existing self, then all things are suffering. Then the question arises: how do we move beyond this sad state, how do we transcend it? The answer is clear: with the Buddha-nature, with the Buddhadhatu. The answer is to grow the seed of the Consciousness, the Buddha-nature, into the tree of wisdom, the Bodhi tree. This comes through profound self-knowledge: Gnosis.
The Four Noble Truths
From the three Dharma seals emerge the Four Noble Truths.
1. Suffering (Dukkha):
“Now, monks, first is the noble truth of suffering: Birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering; union with what is displeasing is suffering; separation from what is pleasing is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are suffering.”
2. The Cause of Suffering (Samudaya):
“Now this, monks, is the noble truth of the origin of suffering: It is this craving which leads to renewed existence, accompanied by delight and lust, seeking delight here and there; that is, craving for sensual pleasures, craving for existence, craving for extermination.”
3. The Cessation of Suffering (Nirodha):
“Now this, monks, is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering: It is the remainder less fading away and cessation of that same craving, the giving up and relinquishing of it, freedom from it, and non-reliance on it.”
4. The Way Leading to the Cessation of Suffering (Magga):
“Now this, monks, is the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering: It is this Noble Eightfold Path; that is, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.”
Samael Aun Weor synthseized the Eightfold Path in this way:
- First: Creative comprehension.
- Second: Upright intentions.
- Third: Upright words.
- Fourth: Absolute sacrifice.
- Fifth: Upright behavior.
- Sixth: Absolute Chastity.
- Seventh: Constant struggles against the Black Magicians.
- Eighth: Supreme patience in all ordeals and sufferings.
Each of these steps is very deep, and inseperable from the others, like facets of a diamond. They are different faces of one precious teaching. Even though they are all essential in the formation of the Consciousness, there is one which receives special attention; for while a practitioner may make mistakes or be weak in one or another of these steps, there is one that allows for no faults at all, and must be made perfect.
Buddha asked his disciples the following, “Tell me, O disciples, when is a disciple no longer a disciple?”
Chastity—sexual purity—is the fecund womb from which the Buddha emerges within us. If we do not establish the conditions for that birth, it can never occur.
Master are born from upright sexuality. Masters fail due to impure sexuality.
These eight aspects are fundamental to any real religion. These are the basis of Gnosis. They are the basis of real Christianity. These eight steps form the basis for the psychological work, as necessary to grow the Buddha-nature into a full Buddha. These are self-imposed, self-understood, self-activated, realized through your own action, realized through your own comprehension. In order to understand what Right View is, or Right Action is, you have to understand that in yourself. Reading a book will not tell you; listening to a lecture will not tell you.
To know how to act right in a given situation, you have to meditate, you have to activate the Consciousness. When the Consciousness becomes active and can observe the phenomena of that situation, it can penetrate into the two extremes, the extremes of how the ego works through the pendulum, through desire, through craving and aversion, and by comprehending the nature of those extremes, your Consciousness can then determine what is the right action to perform.
The Buddha taught these profound truths in many levels according to the needs of the students. But in synthesis, the basis of accomplishing the goal of any genuine religion is self-knowledge. Every pure religion teaches that the human being needs to develop; the means to develop is through cultivation of the Consciousness, and this is accomplished by awakening it, and removing the obstacles to its growth. The obstacles are our many egos: laziness, lust, greed, gluttony, pride, envy, and more.
When we remain identified with the false sense of self (the “I”), we remain enslaved to the Wheel of Transmigration (Arcanum 10) and thus remain in suffering.
To escape the Wheel, we have to awaken the Consciousness and realize the true nature of our self.
Whosoever wants to vividly experience Reality must eliminate the subjective elements of perception.
It is urgent to know that such elements constitute diverse entities that form the “I.”
The soul profoundly sleeps within each one of those elements. What pain...! - Samael Aun Weor, The Gnostic Magic of the Runes