Only the light of Consciousness, directed not from different angles, but fully focused and centered upon ourselves, can put an end to the contrasts, to the psychological contradictions. Only thus can we establish within ourselves true inner equilibrium. - Samael Aun Weor, The Great Rebellion
Attention means "directed awareness." We use this term Vigilance which implies a very active, very focused form of attention; like a watchman, like a soldier in time of war. A vigilant person cannot pause, cannot stop, cannot rest. Meditation depends upon that effort. There cannot be meditation if there is no vigilance. So it can be understood why there are practitioners of meditation who practice for 10 or 15 years and do not get anywhere. It is precisely because they are not learning how to be vigilant all day long. The truth is, meditation never stops. Practically speaking, there should be no difference between your waking daily life and the time you sit to meditate. There should be no difference in how you pay attention. The only difference is that you sit down and you focus on one thing, whereas during the day there are many things that are coming at you, so you have to manage all of the incoming impressions with consciously directed awareness.
Attention and awareness are related, but not the same. Attention is focused; awareness is diffused. A good example is to consider the light of a candle: the light it casts in the space around it is awareness. But the light of a flashlight is Attention: it is focused on one thing.
The meditator learns to develop both of these manifestations of consciousness; but to meditate properly, one must distinguish between them. To penetrate into the true nature of any phenomena, one uses vigilance, or directed attention.
Therefore, Vigilance is the prerequisite for meditation. And what this means is that in every moment, every instant, we have to pay attention. This is why all the different spiritual traditions emphasize being "in the moment," being aware, being watchful, being mindful; these terms transcend dogma and religion. They are functions of the consciousness, and you cannot skip over them if you expect to meditate.
Meditation is a deepening of that Vigilance. Meditation is not "spacing out." Spacing out is daydreaming and fantasizing, the opposite of meditation. To really understand what meditation is, we have to be applying directed attention, watchfulness, all day long, every moment, always trying to see ourselves in a new way, as if we had never seen ourselves before.
Ethics and Morality
Man know thyself, and thou shalt know the Universe and its Gods...
The knowing of oneself, that Gnosis, begins with watchfulness, vigilance, with paying attention. This is the foundation of all the systems of Ethics and Morality. These are codified rules that are designed to help a practitioner accomplish two things. The first is to be aware of themselves, and the second is to stop creating karma. Ethics and moral codes exist so that we may stop harmful action.
This is the first stage of meditation, because as long as we persist in any kind of behavior that harms others or that creates negative results in ourselves, we are producing karma, we are producing an imbalance. These activities create ripples in the mind and ripples in nature, thus the pendulum is moving; that means there is no stability and thus no real peace. So when we act in violence or anger, we are creating disturbances in the energy within ourselves and other people. And that vibration, that energy, impedes meditation immediately. The goal of meditation first of all is to settle the mind, to cultivate a peaceful mind. Only then can one get information. If the mind is active and upset and agitated, one cannot meditate. Thus if one is creating harmful energies in one's life, environment and mind, one cannot meditate. So the first step is to reduce these energies.
Ethics and moralities in Sanskrit are called Yama and Niyama which mean "To-do" and "Not To-do," or in other words, things to do and things not to do. Every religion has this. We in the West are more or less familiar with the Ten Commandments; these are rules of things we should do and should not do. Monks and Nuns take vows which are actions that they must do and must not do. The most common ethics are summarized in the most basic of Buddhist vows:
- a. to abstain from killing any creature
- b. to abstain from stealing
- c. to abstain from sexual misconduct
- d. to abstain from false speech (lying, gossip, sarcasm, criticism, etc)
- e. to abstain from intoxicants (alcohol, drugs, etc)
This first stage is given to every Monk, every Nun, every Initiate, in every mystical spiritual teaching that has ever existed. They have always been given an ethical system to follow and it has always been designed (at least originally) to push the student to learn how to pay attention.
So with the lay people, the exoteric side of the various schools, they were given rules such as, "Thou shalt not kill" and so the common churchgoer, the exoteric group, knew that they should not kill anyone. But the ordained ones, meaning the Priests, the Monks, the Nuns, were taught that this rule is much deeper. It goes deeper than just physical action, because we kill with the mind, we kill with the heart. When we generate hatred and anger toward someone else, particularly if we imagine hurting them, we are creating causes and we are producing results. We are affecting a person, and we are affecting ourselves. And so Monks, Nuns and Priests were always educated to understand that all ethics and moralities apply to more than just physical levels. They apply to the mind and heart. That is why in the Gospels Jesus of Nazareth says:
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. - Matthew 5:27-28
Mere physical action is only the beginning; if you enact something as a thought, you have committed a crime and thus you have created Karma. This means you are blocking access to the consciousness. You are creating a block, what is called in Tibetan an "aggregate." It is called in Fourth Way schools an "ego." It is an element of Karma, a packet of energy that traps consciousness and creates suffering.
There is an infinite variety of these defects in the psyche of the human creature, and it is the purpose of meditation to recognize them, understand them, separate the consciousness from them, and finally destroy them, removing them from the individual, thus freeing the consciousness from suffering and giving full expression to the purest, most beautiful part of the Human Soul. This is symbolized in the story of the Phoenix Bird.
Everything we have discussed until now belongs to the first stage of the practice of meditation: Ethics.
The remaining steps can be outlined in various ways, but the most commonly known is this model from India:
The Steps of Meditation
- Ethics (Yama and Niyama)
- Posture (Asana)
- Breath (Pranayama)
- Silence (Pratyahara)
- Concentration (Dharana)
- Meditation (Dhyana)
- Ecstasy (Samadhi)
These are the steps of meditation as given in the many schools of Yoga. There are various ways in Hinduism to break down the stages of meditation; for the purpose of this course we are focusing on a simplified order of steps. There are many ways to analyze and codify the steps of meditation. This list is simply an introduction and is in no way an exhaustive or authoritative model of all the real and vital stages of practice.
The gist of this outline is that there are levels of practice. To advance through these levels, it is necessary that we establish a strong foundation to build upon. If we are weak in our ethics, the first step, then we cannot possibly move to the next step, because a proper posture depends upon having a relaxed energy. Someone who is a victim of poor ethics and lack of Self-observation (Vigilance) will be a victim of tension and agitation, and therefore will not be able to achieve even preliminary concentration.
There are many who seem to think that once they are concentrating on one thing then that is meditation; or merely sitting and repeating a Mantra is meditation; or visualizing something is considered meditation. But in reality these are all preliminary.
The next stage step, if we were to look at the Hindu model, is what they call Asana, which means "posture" or "position."
If you study Hatha Yoga or other Eastern traditions, you know their instructors teach Western people to sit in a lotus posture or a half-lotus posture, or variations of these. These postures are fine if you have a body that comes from that part of the world or if you are quite flexible. For Asians to sit in that posture is very easy, very relaxing. They can sit that way without any tension and without any discomfort, but for Westerners these postures are very difficult because we have a different type of body. It is actually very painful to sit that way for most Westerners. Many Westerners spend a few years thinking they are learning to meditate when in reality they are just trying to get their body to adapt to an uncomfortable position. Many become disllusioned and give up. It is a mistake to believe that you are required to meditate only in these particular postures.
The reason the postures are given is to produce a combination of relaxation and attentiveness. These two elements have to be in perfect balance with each other.
In Gnosis we understand that meditation can be practiced in numerous postures; you can utilize whatever posture is comfortable so long as you can be relaxed and attentive. In the books of Samael Aun Weor, he teaches that we can sit in a chair, lie on the ground or on the bed, or in the form of a star, or you can lie on a couch. The key is to have a combination of relaxation and attentiveness; to relax fully, and to be attentive.
A very effective posture for Westerners is to simply sit in a comfortable chair, with a straight back and neck. The hands and arms should be resting on the legs or on the chair. The feet should be well-supported. It is best to loosen any tight clothes or shoes. This posture is effective because the Western body has become adapted to sitting in chairs. A sofa works as well, although you should be careful to make sure that your back will be adequately supported.
Many students prefer to use a small meditation bench or cushion. Regarding cushions, it is worth noting that your cushion should support you such that your knees will be lower than your behind. Otherwise, your back will curve and begin to hurt.
Again, so long as your back is supported and you can balance relaxation and attentiveness, you can take any posture you like.
After some time, many experienced Gnostic students learn to meditate lying down. This practice is very effective but requires that one has developed a certain amount of skill. If you fall asleep, you are not there yet. (Incidentally, those experienced students will seem asleep; the reason will become clear later in the course).
Yet, if you do not relax deeply enough, you will never move into real meditation, because tension will keep you trapped.
The physical body has to become perfectly relaxed. All tension has to be dissolved. As long as there is tension, there cannot be relaxation.
It is necessary for our students to learn how to use mental force. But it is necessary for the student to first learn how to relax his physical body. It is indispensable to know how to relax the body to achieve the perfect concentration of the mind. We can relax the body seated in a comfortable chair or lying down in the corpse posture (with our heels touching each other, arms close to our sides, etc.). The second of the two positions (the corpse posture) is the better.
Imagine that your feet are subtle, that a group of dwarves escape from them. Imagine that your calves are full of small playful dwarves that leave one by one and that as they leave, the muscles become flexible and elastic. Continue with your knees performing the same exercise. Continue with the thighs, sexual organs, abdomen, heart, throat, face and head muscles successively, imagining that those small dwarves flee from each of those parts of the body, leaving the muscles completely relaxed. - Samael Aun Weor, from Introduction to Gnosis
The next step is Breath or Pranayama. In truth, this step concerns controlling the "vital winds" or vital energies of the body, rather than the natural function of breathing.
Many students skip this step, expecting that because they already "know" how to breathe, there must not be anything to learn here. Obviously, this is a mistake.
There are many practices encompassed by the topic of Breath, and this will be discussed in detail in Section Seven of this course.
But just to begin, we must allow the breath to flow naturally. Our breathing should not be forced or controlled. We are relaxing, and our breath should reflect that.
After Asana, the Hindus give a step called Pratyahara. Pratyahara means "silence of the mind." We want to enter into Pratyahara, which is to have a calm mind, a peaceful mind. There are specific techniques that lead us to Pratyahara and this will be our focus in this chapter of the course.
How do you enter into the silence of the mind? First, you have the foundations of the previous steps: you must curtail negative action and thus reduce the inflow of disturbing energy, and second you must take the properly relaxed posture. Having satisfied the initial steps, we take on a particular discipline designed to focus the attention, and we use it with patience and persistence until the mind settles on its own. Notice this incredibly important detail: we allow the mind to settle on its own. We never, ever, try to force the mind to be silent.
We train ourselves to enter Pratyahara by using preliminary concentration exercises. These exercises include an incredible variety of techniques: observing the breath, staring at a dot on a wall, focusing on an object, on a sound, on a phrase, etc. All of these exercises have one goal: to fix the attention on one place, thereby reducing the habitual reactions of the mind. When these reactions are reduced, the mind settles on its own, and becomes quiet.
Once you enter naturally into that silence, the ability to concentrate without being distracted, you can then learn to meditate on one thing.
Once the mind begins to stabilize, one can enter into the next step: concentration on one thing. In Sanskrit it is called Dharana.
From this single-pointed concentration, one begins to penetrate into it, to comprehend it: this is Dhyana. This is where real meditation begins. Meditation is the ability to focus the attention on one thing and receive information about it. All of the other practices and techniques are intended to lead the practicioner to this stage. Everything up to this point is preliminary.
Penetrating into the object of attention then leads to Samadhi. Samadhi basically means "ecstasy." This is an experience of pure consciousness, an experience of the different levels of consciousness. And there are many types of Samadhi, not just one, and we'll talk about that later too.
Samadhi itself is an experience of the consciousness, the absence of the mind, the ego, the sense of self, a name, history, a face. With Samadhi we access the root consciousness of the human being. This is something that is beyond our terrestrial life. And It is something universal; every human being can access it.
If you look at the accounts of different Sages and Saints throughout history, throughout all cultures, they all essentially agree; the primary elements that they had explained or thought were all the same. You can read the early church fathers of the Christian church and they understood the levels of contemplation, the levels of Samadhi, levels of consciousness, just the same as the Zen monks, or the Tibetan monks. This is not something unique to one culture.
But we need to understand that 99% of the people who try to learn meditation never go deeper than preliminary concentration practices. By far the majority of people get stuck somewhere in the beginning of this outline.
The reason is that they cannot let go of themselves. That is why it takes great courage. It takes tremendous courage to meditate properly. The irony is that as soon as one experiences real meditation, real separation from the false sense of self, one has great joy. What stops people generally is some kind of an attachment or fear. If a practitioner is able to transcend their own fear, to move beyond that, they can access the consciousness itself. And they get so much joy and so much peace! Then there is an eagerness to meditate. The one who has tasted this is different from other people because they have a kind of will, a kind of unstoppable purpose mixed with joy, mixed with happiness. This should be remembered by everyone in those moments when resistance is really great.
The unavoidable truth about meditation is that you must have a lot of willpower because the resistance is strong, and the resistance is your own mind. That is your sole obstacle: yourself. To meditate you have to conquer your own mind, your own self, the false self. The sense of self you have that you believe is real, but is fundamentally an illusion; that is Maya, which means "illusion," and it is Dukha, which in Pali means "suffering, ignorance." We ignore the true self, the root of consciousness, our own Selves as consciousness, the Essence, what we really are inside, and thus we suffer, trapped in illusion.
The Structure of the Soul
To explain this in a structural form we can look at the Kabbalah. Traditionally people think of Kabbalah as a Hebrew teaching, but It is actually older than the Hebrew tradition. The Kabbalah is a map of Consciousness. The Kabbalah maps the Universe as a structure and the consciousness, the soul of man.
When energy manifests into life, when energy descends, when creation occurs at the very superior level, there is a light.
And the Elohim said, Let there be light.
The light, the Ray of Creation, descends and unfolds into different levels of consciousness. This light is similar to a lightning bolt, the common symbol of this unfoldment, and what we see in that unfoldment are the different levels of the soul. Each sphere is a world, a realm, a vibration of space. But each sphere is also mirrored in our own inner constitution; each sphere is a level of our own consciousness.
As above, so below.
At the top is the Superior Trinity, the triangle which we call the Supernal Triangle or the Three Logos, the Trinity of Christianity and Hinduism. This is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. They are three, yet they are one. Many Hindu sculptures have a deity with one body and three faces: this is the Trimurti or Tri-Unity. They are three aspects of the same thing.
From the superior triangle unfolds its reflection; this reflection is another tri-unity that we call the Monad. Our own particular individual Father, our Being, our own particular God, is here. And our own particular God has his own progenitor, his own Father. Thus the superior triangle contains the Father of our Father, mystically and spiritually speaking. This is what is meant in the Bible when we read "The Son of God." The Son of God is the Monad, the Inner Spirit, because He (Chesed) is the Son of the Father.
The Monad has three aspects, as a reflection of the superior trinity. First is first our own Individual Father, our Innermost Spirit, which in Sanskrit is called Atman. In Kabbalah he is called Chesed. He has two beloved children, or two parts of himself through which he works. He unfolds into two parts; in Sanskrit these are called Buddhi and Manas. In Kabbalah they are called Geburah and Tiphereth. Buddhi is feminine and Manas is masculine.
Geburah, Buddhi, is the feminine Divine Soul. She is symbolized in the Illiad (a Gnostic work) as Helen, the beauty for whom all men fight and struggle. She is also Guinivere, the Queen. She is Beatrice from Dante's Divine Comedy. She is, in synthesis, our own Consciousness. She is the Virtuous Maiden who must be saved.
The Knight that must fight for her honor is Tiphereth. He is Lancelot, the brave warrior. He is the Charming Prince. He must work and sacrifice and fight. Tiphereth, Manas, is our Willpower, and is our immediate root: the Human Soul.
Tiphereth in turn unfolds and manifests a spark of himself into the lower forms of matter. This spark takes up residence in the Four Bodies of Sin: the mental, emotional, vital and physical bodies.
That spark is the Essence, the Buddhata, the consciousness that has descended from our own Inner Being. The spark is quite small, like a baby, yet it is intimately connected to Tiphereth and to Geburah and to Chesed, and through them to Supernal Monad and then the Absolute Abstract Space.
Now perhaps you can understand what Samadhi is: it is the joy the consciousness experiences as it abandons the lower spheres. That joy may be in any sphere of the Kabbalah; it may be physical, it may astral. Regardless, Samadhi is the freedom of the consciousness, whether it is for an instant or an hour.
The consciousness is the spark of life that animates the vehicles that we use. The consciousness is the link back to our originator, back to Tiphereth and Geburah and Chesed. The consciousness is the channel through which we can receive the love, wisdom, and knowledge of our own Innermost (Chesed): he gives us these through his Soul, which is Geburah and Tiphereth.
So we have Spirit, Soul and Body. It is energy from Him, our own inner Father, that unfolds and descends into what we know as "ourselves." We have mind, we have emotion, we have vital energy, and we have a physical body; these are the four lower spheres. But the principle that gives us the experience of these aspects of ourselves is the consciousness, whether that consciousness is free and acting in harmony with the laws of God, or if the consciousness is trapped in the mind and acts out of balance with the fundamental laws of the cosmos.
If you are familiar with the Bible, this is the Terrestrial Man (us) and the Heavenly Man (the Monad) in the writings of Paul. All of this is symbolically represented in the Bible. The Bible is entirely made up of Kabbalistic symbolism.
There is a structure to understand meditation. There is structure to understand the Soul. There is a structure to understand every kind of experience you can ever have in any level of consciousness and it is here in the Kabbalah. Any mystical experience can be applied to this tree. Any experience out of the body or in meditation must be understood in relation to this diagram.
When we meditate, we learn how to concentrate the consciousness that we have inside of these Four Bodies of Sin, and to separate from them, to be free of them, to ascend and perceive the superior levels of the Being. The Kabbalah is the Line of Being.
The consciousness is rooted here in the feminine aspect of our own Inner Being. That consciousness, that energy, descends into us. It is the root of our existence. And in us, it has its roots in the Pineal Gland at the center of the brain. The Pineal Gland is the receptor of consciousness in us and it is the root of perception.
The Three Brains
What we have to realize is that perception happens before there is sensation. Sensation occurs here in the physical body or it happens in the heart or in the intellect. But perception itself begins well before the arising of sensation. The function of meditation is to learn how to perceive before sensation appears. Sensation can be intellectual or emotional or physical.
We have an intellect, we have emotion, and we also have a motor-instinctive-sexual aspect. We call these three aspects "Brains" because they function on their own; they each have their own way of thinking and processing.
Human beings have come to believe that their true self is the intellect. This is that chattering, never-stopping train of thoughts, that voice in the head that never shuts up. Most of us think that voice is the self, "me," that is "my identity," but it is not; it is the false self.
Many people live life having to deliberate everything, needing "reasons." They cannot act on a mere feeling or sensation, they have to see that it is "a good idea." They are psychologically predisposed to see everything through the Intellectual Brain.
Some of us think that our real self is in the emotional center, that our feelings are our real identity. We believe that what we feel, what we like and dislike, defines ourselves. These people live life according to how they feel about things, and will often act on a feeling rather than on common sense, meaning they have not thought about it. But this is also merely sensation. It is not the root of Self, the root of consciousness. It iss just emotion. They are psychologically predisposed to see everything through the Emotional Brain.
And many believe sensation and the body is the real self, that if we feel good physically then we are good, and if we feel bad physically then we are bad. These people live life instinctively, acting and reacting before they have had a chance to think about what they are doing or even to know how they feel emotionally about it. They are psychologically predisposed to see everything through the Instinctive Brain.
So, there are three primary ways that we become confused. Everyone who is asleep, like most of humanity, falls into one of these three groups, believing that one of these aspects of our psyche is the real self.
We tend to go through our daily lives talking to ourselves; we have a chattering train of thoughts that are going on all the time and we communicate with that, we talk with that. "Well I am going do this and that, and then if this happens maybe I will go here and do this and that." This dialogue is going on all the time. This dialogue is known as our Psychological Song.
This dialogue, this song, is fed continually by our mechanical interpretation of life. Whether we are an emotional type of person or an instinctive type, we all have a chattering train of thinking. This chatter is the inner dialogue of the ego, not the Being, not the Spirit, and not the consciousness. The goal of the meditator is to separate from the chatter that occurs in the intellect, from the rising and falling emotions of the emotional center, and from the pleasant and unpleasant sensations that arise in the motor-instictive-sexual brain.
Sensation arises in all three brains. All sensation is impermanment: it arises, and it falls away. Unfortunately, we do not realize this, and are completely 100% identified with sensations.
If we do not see something with our five senses, we may not believe it. We depend utterly and entirely on this "sensual" way of perception; if we cannot perceive it physically, we do not believe it.
The Sensual Mind
The sensual mind depends on sensation. Everything that it believes, wants, chases and runs from is determined by sensations.
The sensual mind has a death grip on our culture. Materialistic science, which is only a couple of hundred years old, has fed this and has made it very fat and robust in humanity. We are now at the point that many people say, "If I cannot see God he must not be real."
But then if you ask them, "Well, do you have a heart?"
"Of course I have a heart!"
"Have you ever seen it?"
"No, but I know It is there."
There are obvious limits to this level of logic, nonetheless we all fall victim to this sensibility of being blinded and hypnotized by the five senses.
We believe the physical body is who we are. Pretty much everybody thinks that this is your only physical body. We have not had another one that we remember, so this must be it. And yet how many people have had a lucid dream? Where was your physical body? Were you having a lucid dream just in your head? If you are having a lucid dream that means you were awake and you knew you were dreaming, and you could do things there that you could not do with your physical body. So where was your physical body? It was in bed asleep, and yet you were somewhere doing things that normally you could not do. You were operating with another part of yourself, separate from the physical body.
And we all do that when we dream. Every being, every creature that exists does the same: the consciousness escapes from the physical body. The physical body stays in bed and it is recharged, it heals over night, it builds energy like a battery storing energy. The Astral Body and the mind go out; that is why we loose consciousness of the physical body and forget about it. This is exactly what you are going to do in meditation. You have to extract the consciousness from these inferior levels to experience something more. This is the basic idea of this chart that illustrates the Kabbalah; it helps us to see how we need to work.
Samadhi is the term to describe this type of experience. Samadhi is basically an ecstasy that happens in the absence of the "I." And this "I" is of course our false self. "I am named this and that, I am this many years old. I am from such and such state. I have had these traumatic experiences and these good experiences and I have made this much money, people have betrayed me, etc." All of that is the false self. All of this false self is rooted in information from the five senses, from the information of the sensual mind. It is what our mind believes and the memories that we hold on to but none of it is fundamentally real.
It is like our dreams; we dream things that are desires of the mind but they are not real. Our mind itself is full of pictures that are not fundamentally real. We believe in them so much that they make us suffer. That is why we can just start thinking about something and then we start to feel bad. We start to feel emotions that are painful just because of a thought. What is a thought? It is just energy. But what's happening there is really important for us to understand: it is energy of the mind trapping energy of consciousness because there is a lack of attention, because there is no vigilance there, there is no consciousness there; it is mechanical. It is happening because of fear, or desire, or anger or pride, something like that. So we suffer. We suffer because the consciousness is trapped in the desire for some kind of sensation.
Samadhi or ecstasy is the escape from that situation. It is the ability to transcend all desire for sensation. The root nature, the inherit nature of the consciousness, is JOY. The nature of consciousness is joy, not resentment, not fear, not anger, not pride, not shame; joy. We have all tasted that before, at least when we were babies. Most of us may not remember, but when we see a baby we are so attracted because that baby is pure consciousness, the mind has not yet settled in. And we see that purity and we are hungry for that, and we long for that because on some level we remember it. Deep inside we remember it. And we say, "Oh, I wish I was a kid again. No bills, no people yelling at me, screaming at me, giving me a hard time about stuff that I really do not care about. Not having to worry about my car, or the dog," just the purity, happiness, simplicity.
In Gnosis we learn to recover the attributes we had as children. One very important fact we must observe and recover is this: babies are so relaxed! We are tense 24 hours a day. How many times have woken up at night and realized that you are completely tense? Every muscle in your body is tense because the mind has not stopped going all night. Everything that you were thinking about all day, you were thinking about all night. There is no peace, there is no serenity, no relaxation.
Jesus said, "Except be ye as little children you shall not enter heaven." We have to become once again the way we were as children: pure, innocent, simple, relaxed, and most of all, seeing the world as if it was new, as if we had just arrived.
We cultivate complication in our culture. We complicate our lives. Your meditation will deepen as you remove complication, and simplify. This is part of the reason people have always left the cities and gone to meditate in caves and hermitages.
We have to remove obstacles in order to understand what the consciousness is. We create the obstacles ourselves. We have very complicated lives; we have very complicated minds, and it is all self-created. Until that changes, we cannot meditate. It is impossible. We are our own obstacles. Remember that. Everything in your life is there because of you, not because of your boss or because of your family. We have to learn first of all to take responsibility; never blame anyone.
As soon as we can recognize that everything in our life is in our control, our power to change it, then we can change it. And if it is not in our power, why worry about it, there is nothing we can do. It is so logical! If we have a problem and we can fix it, why worry, there is solution. If there is a problem and we cannot fix it, why worry, there is no solution. But we worry anyway. We worry if there is a solution and we worry if there is no solution; it is a mechanical habit, it is a bad habit, and it is part of the mind, a part of this mechanical process. When something is mechanical, it means that there is no consciousness there.
Samadhi is the ability to escape from the whole mechanism and to taste the simple joy of the consciousness; that is why Samadhi is defined as "ecstasy," the common translation of that word. It is not ecstasy in terms of sensation or pleasure, like having a tremendous orgasm, which is what most people think it is. It absolutely is not anything like that. Unfortunately, because we are so identified with the sensual mind, we come to meditation believing that we will be able to access even greater heights of pleasurable sensation, and in fact many meditation instructors use this lie to attract students. Many instructors even believe it to be true, and spend their lives desperately seeking greater experiences of what they call Samadhi, but which are in fact various experiences of sensation. They become addicted to experiences that one can in fact have in meditation, but they are not Samadhi and they have nothing to do with liberation from suffering.
Samadhi is the experience of the simple pure joy of the consciousness, which may be very powerful, very overwhelming and completely absorbing, but it does not mean sensation in terms of physical sensations. We can experience all kinds of physical sensations in meditation, but these are not Samadhi.
The Basis of Samadhi
Samadhi has many levels and forms. But to reach any of them, from the most subtle to the most powerful, there are two aspects of meditation that we have develop. You could say that Samadhi is defined by two Sanskrit words. The first one is Shamatha and the second one is Vipassana. These are spelled in many different ways because they are really written in Sanskrit, so you might see different spellings. But Samadhi is composed of these two different aspects. All meditators from all traditions cultivate these two aspects of the consciousness in order to reach Samadhi, in order to escape the prison of the sensual mind.
Shamatha is often translated as "Calm Abiding." It means having a stable mind, a calm mind, and being able to concentrate. But the root of the word is very interesting. SHA in Sanskrit means "peace." We have to cultivate peace through the presence of the consciousness, through concentration, not the false peace that we get through repression or by running away from our problems. It is not that. It is a peace that comes through concentrating the consciousness, the awareness. MATA means "dwelling" or "stability." So SHAMATHA means "to dwell or to be founded, to have establishment in peace, to dwell in peace." This is the first stage, the first aspect of meditation that we have to cultivate. Shamata is essentially the same thing as Pratyahara.
Here we are trying to meditate, but we sit amidst a sphere of chaos, the turbulence of our own mind. Really, this is our state all the time, we have this chaos of thoughts and feelings and sensations that are always hitting us. You could say the mind is like a very disturbed ocean. There is no clear pattern in the waves, they are just crashing into each other from all different directions. And we can verify that for ourselves right now.
Sit quietly for one minute and do not think. So just sit quietly and watch your mind. Do not think, just watch.
How many thoughts do you think came through your mind in that minute?
If you are sincere with yourself, you will see that your own mind is far from "dwelling in peace."
We have so much activity in the mind because none of us learned when we grew up how to use our attention, how to control and focus the consciousness. So if the consciousness is not there to drive the chariot, the chariot runs like mad down the road. This is an ancient symbol with many levels of meaning, present among the Greeks and Romans and in Hinduism: the chariot is our mind, our psyche, and it is drawn on by the horses. The horses can symbolize either the Four Bodies of Sin (the mental, emotional, vital and physical bodies) or the five senses which feed them. If the driver is not attentive, the chariot is likely to crash. If we do not control the four bodies with conscious, attentive willpower, we will crash in a great tragedy.
Of course, we have not learned to consciously and attentively control the relationship between sensation and the mind, thus our mind is out of control. This is why everyone is tense. This is why there are rampant rates of depression, suicide, divorce, violence, anxiety, ADD (attention deficit disorder), etc. In fact, the terrifying truth is becoming more obvious to the health care system: that most people suffer from ADD.
Incidentally, therapists are beginning to recognize the power that meditation has to help the mind. There was a recent study at the University of Wisconsin where they measured the effects of meditation over the course of a period of time, and they proved that people who meditate have lower levels of stress, less chance of heart disease, less chance of heart attacks, and many other factors. All of this simply because they have learned how to control their attention and thus take energy away from the mind. The mind then naturally settles down.
In the beginning we learn how to develop Shamatha, the ability to dwell in peace psychologically, consciously. So rather than having the chaos that is normally churning in us, we learn how to focus the attention, so the first practice we are all going to learn is simply that - how to concentrate on one thing and to let go of thinking. This is the first stage.
We will learn a couple of different techniques. Everyone is different in their capacities and the tools that they respond to. We need to develop one technique that we can hold on to with discipline and perseverance and with patience. It is important to choose one technique and stick with it. We will all face obstacles and problems, but we must not make the mistake of believing that they are the result of the technique we are applying. All of these techniques work. What creates the problems is our own mind.
Within a period of time relative to the effort you make, the mind begins to calm down naturally. It happens naturally. You cannot force it. And this is another thing that is very important to make absolutely clear: you cannot force the mind to be quiet. This is another mistake that many meditators and teachers of meditation make: they say, "make your mind quiet." It is impossible. Nobody can do that. However, advanced practitioners and teachers may say this as a way of expressing the willpower of the attention, because it is a known fact that if the attention is strongly placed, the mind will back down. But this is not to be understood as pushing the consciousness against the mind, against thought: this will do violence to the psyche, and can result in deeper suffering. There is no danger provided you follow the instructions properly. Just make sure that you are focusing on concentrating the attention, rather than on trying to make your mind quiet.
Become very conscious, very attentive, and the mind will settle on its own. The mind is like a lake, like an ocean. What causes the waves are all the impressions of life and the random and distracted thinking and feeling that is happening in us. But if we learn to focus our attention, those impressions stop hitting the mind, they come to the consciousness instead. Then we are able to take that information and file it properly inside of ourselves. This means that those blasts of sensations are no longer hitting the mind wildly and the mind naturally calms down.
In Esoteric Psychology this is called Transformation of Impressions. (See The Revolution of the Dialectic by Samael Aun Weor).
You can go on a meditation retreat, for example, and if you are disciplined and you sit 8 to 10 hours a day regularly, you can experience a calm mind with a matter of days. Most of us do not have that opportunity, so we need to expect that it is going to take more time. But if you sit every day and you are trying to work with your attention all day long every day, you will achieve a calm mind very rapidly. You will see big differences if you work every minute, constantly. That is really why monks go on retreats and that is really why monks live in monasteries. It is to keep all these impressions from hitting them, to isolate themselves from so much complication, to not be in the city, to not be around the opposite sex, to not be in places where they are pounded by so much information. In isolation they are able to have a calm mind very fast. Unfortunately, when they come back to the city, they lose it. Many meditators find that. They want to go on a long retreat, 10 days or three months or a year, and they go and they have peace of mind, but as soon as they come back to the city it is gone. It is heart-breaking. They would do better to develop a calm mind here, in the midst of the city. It may take more effort, more willpower, and more patience, but the result is far more durable and long-lasting. We who live in the city have an advantage in that sense. If we can develop a calm mind here, it is unbreakable. So, if we have that discipline, that willpower, we can have a calm mind, and it cannot be shaken.
The real chaos is in the mind. It is how the mind reacts to the outside. If you can change that, you can change the whole phenomena. So the essence of Shamatha is to learn how to set the mind on one thing without being distracted, to learn how to pay attention. We do this by first learning how to concentrate on one thing.
We must learn to concentrate our attention all day long, in spite of the incredible distractions that our society swims in. We must learn to control our attention in spite of the advertising, the movies, the magazines, the attractions of sex and drinking and smoking; if we can control ourselves in front of all of these cravings, there is nothing that can stop us from reaching the Absolute Perfection of the Soul.
So there are two practices we will learn in order to develop the ability to control our attention. One is to learn how to concentrate on a candle flame, and one is to learn how to concentrate on your breath. Generally speaking, for many the candle is easier in the beginning.
Preliminary Concentration Experiment 1: The Candle Practice 1
Find a place where you can sit in complete comfort. Place a candle so you can see the flame. Keep your eyes open and have a very relaxed posture.
Steadily and progressively become aware of the muscles of the body. Start at the top of your head and move downward, relaxing all the muscles. Imagine the tension evaporating, rising up like smoke or steam. Be thorough. You will find tension in surprising places.
After relaxing all the muscles of the body, place your attention on the candle flame. Then you simply keep your attention on the candle flame. Do not allow your mind to pull your attention into thoughts or dreams or memories or plans. Your goal is to maintain complete concentration on the candle flame.
Maintain this control over attention for ten to fifteen minutes. Every time you lose your attention into a distraction, simply return to concentrating on the candle. Do not judge yourself or congratulate yourself. Simply observe.
Time yourself by setting an alarm. Do not watch the clock or trust your sense of time. These are distractions of attention. You need to develop the capacity to be 100% focused on one thing. Even a little 5% awareness of time is not acceptable.
In the beginning, do not meditate for too long. You will burn yourself out. Short sessions are better, maybe 10 or 15 minutes. If you want more than that, do 10 minutes, take a break, then do another ten minutes. You are more likely to develop deeper concentration if you work in small sessions. Sitting longer means there is a higher risk of losing concentration or becoming distracted. Only gradually should you increase your meditation time. Of course, in later stages you should have developed enough conscious awareness that the length of the session is irrelevant, because you never lose your attention into anything. At this stage, one meditates for as long as it takes to accomplish whatever goals we have for that session. Monks in the Tibetan tradition begin learning to meditate by performing short sessions of ten to fifteen minutes. They will do this twenty or thirty times a day, and only gradually will they increase the length of the session.
Do this practice everyday. It is best to do it at a time when you are naturally at rest: in the early morning or in the evening. Some people become drowsy in the mid afternoon (4 or 5 o'clock); take advantage of the body's natural pauses. What is important is to develop consistency. If you skip days, you are crippling your own ability to progress. BE CONSISTENT.
Preliminary Concentration Experiment 1: The Candle Variation 2
Follow the instructions for the first practice.Now as you observe the flame, pay attention to the fluctuations and changes of the flame. Notice how subtle changes are; changes in color, transparency, vibration, motion, rhythm, etc. The flame never stays the same; it is constantly changing. This is not an exercise in thought: it is an exercise in observational powers. Pay attention to the changes: do not think about them, or compare them, or wonder about them: just watch them happen as they happen. Do not lose a moment of its activity!
Preliminary Concentration Experiment 1: The Candle Variation 3
Now, as an experiment, observe the candle flame, but pay attention to your hands. Observe how you can be looking at one thing, but paying attention to another. Attention is not dependent on sight. Neither is it dependent on any other physical sense. This is a very important phenomena to understand.
Notice that you can be looking at the candle and have your attention on your body or on a sound or on a daydream. Can you see how you can look at one thing and yet pay attention to another?
For example, you can watch the candle with your eyes, but you can be paying attention to a sensation on your body. This is called Division of Attention, and it is an important skill, but at this stage of practice it is an obstacle. In the beginning, you cannot have that separation if you want to develop strong concentration. You cannot be divided in that way. One hundred percent of your attention has to be focused on the object of attention. So when you are working to develop concentration, DO NOT divide your attention. Focus all of your attention on your object.
The reality is, though, that we all find our minds to be a see of chaos; how can we concentrate with such noise in our heads?
This is the beginning obstacle. Here is your candle, here is your attention, you are looking at it, you are watching it, but what happens inevitably? Thoughts, emotions, sensations, all kinds of information in the three brains is there to distract us; memories, worries, etc. Past and future. There is a pendulum. Bad and good, past and future etc. This is how the mind functions: the pendulum, duality, back and forth.
Every distraction, every sensation, every thought, every feeling, has the potential to absorb some percentage of your attention. Your job is to learn how to focus 100% of your attention on the candle flame. The fastest way to do that is actually very simple: notice what in you is not paying attention to the candle flame.
You sit to meditate, you observe the candle, and you feel pain in your knee, you have this thought about money, you have a latent anxiety. These are all happening simultaneously. That means, let's say 10% of your attention is on your knee, 50% is thinking about money, 20% is anxious, and 10% is counting time (waiting for the meditation to be over) and that leaves only 10% left there all alone trying to focus on the candle flame. What are you to do?
If you observe the candle and you realize thoughts of money keep coming, then you simply look at those thoughts for a moment and then you withdraw attention from them. You pay attention to them momentarily, then you stop paying attention to them. You must recognize the distraction first. If you ignore it, it will take longer. If you look at it for a moment then let it go, you will be able to develop concentration much faster. With each distraction that we notice and let go, we increase the strength of our attention on our primary object. That means you will be more and more focused on the object of meditation.
This is the basis of mindfulness: to remain consciously aware of what we are doing. Notice what is trying to keep your attention, then marshal your willpower to focus on the object of meditation. So gradually, by noticing what is distracting you, you focus more and more attention on the object. Gradually your concentration will become more robust. With continued practice, you will be able to focus your attention easily and the mind will naturally calm down. Take your consciousness away from the distracting elements and they will naturally subside. It is natural, you do not have to force anything. It happens on its own.
You measure the success of this level of practice by how long you can remain focused on the object of meditation. Actually in the beginning, you measure by whether or not you can remember you are there to meditate! That is the first gate. Many people sit to meditate and in a few seconds forget, then the whole 10 or 15 minutes goes by and they realize, "Wait a minute, I am supposed to be meditating!" That has to be changed, because if you forget that you are doing it, you are not doing it.
What if you notice a pain? In this stage of practice you can move if you have pain. Sitting in pain is pointless. The point is to develop relaxation and concentration. Develop a good posture but do not keep moving the whole time, because that will become a serious obstacle. If you have real willpower, if you really want to push, do not move at all. At certain stage of the practice you have to develop that skill. At some point, to move further, you must stop moving completely. We will talk about that later. So at this stage, make an adjustment if you have pain. The pain is just a distraction; move a little bit, let it go and keep concentrating. Eventually, pain will not be an obstacle.
Shamatha is Calm Abiding, the serenity of the steady mind. This state exists when we have developed what is called "one-pointed mind," which, in the terminology of Gnosis, is a misnomer. The mind is not one-pointed, the consciousness is. (In many Eastern traditions, the word "mind" is used instead of "consciousness." Thus, "the awakening mind," or Bodhicitta, is truly the "awakening consciousness." We clarify these terms because in the West the "mind" is assumed to mean the "intellect," and if one were to awaken the intellect, one would then be an abortion of nature, otherwise known as a "demon.")
We must establish Shamata, Calm Abiding, if we are to have any insight into our true situation. Insight is our goal: the ability to perceive the truth directly.
Vipassana is the Sanskrit word for Insight. Translated literally it means "special insight." In other words, vipassana is related to Imagination or Clairvoyance.
It works basically like this. You are in a boat on the ocean. The boat is your mind. The ocean is life. Normally, the boat is tossed by the ocean and you cannot stand still, it is impossible. Life is rocking us too hard. You have to hold onto something: the mast of the ship. The mast of the ship is the object of concentration, the candle, your breath, or whatever it is. You hold on to that with everything that you have got. All your willpower has to be focused on that. As you draw your attention exclusively to holding on, naturally the ocean settles. The boat starts to calm down and you develop stability. And that point you can let go of the mast and you can look around and begin to understand what has been happening to you.
Shamatha is the ability to stand still on the deck. Shamatha is standing in stability, firmness and peace. Vipassana is perceiving the nature of phenomena. When you begin to look around at things you begin to see them in a way that you could not have seen when the boat was being tossed about. This is how meditation works. We develop the capacity to observe peacefully, and in the observation we perceive the nature of phenomena.
Shamata and Vipassana in union produce Samadhi. If you are not accessing Samadhi, it is because of one of two reasons: either you do not have Shamatha or Vipassana developed, or it is your karma. That is it. Anyone can develop the union of Shamata and Vipassana and thus enter Samadhi, so long as the karma allows it.
The object of concentration that we use to develop Shamata can be anything. Many Hindu yogis concentrate on a stick or a rock because they can all get one, they do not have to buy a fancy one at the store. It is just a rock, and they meditate and develop concentration. They are so poor that they cannot afford to go buy a fancy ritual object or a big statue. Of course, many Westerners approach meditation in this way, which is to their misfortune.
You can use a candle flame or a rock or the Empire State Building, provided you have a view to see it. But regardless, it is best to use a real object, outside of oneself, and it is preferable to use something natural and organic or the image of a sacred person or symbol. Eventually, as you develop more consistent attention, you can switch to more difficult objects.
The obstacles that we face in our attempt to develop Shamatha are varied. First are external distractions, noises outside, screaming neighbors, pain in the physical body, being too cold, too hot; whatever they may be. We have to develop the capacity to not care about any of it, to withdraw from it. If you need to use ear-plugs use them. If you need to put a blanket on or stretch for a minute, do that. Take breaks; but the point is to sit and be patient. Withdraw your attention from every distraction and you will get there. There are no shortcuts.
One obstacle that people face is that they expect too much. We sit to meditate and we want Samadhi that day. It does not work like that. Do not go into it with expectation because that is the mind, that is desire, and that will produce frustration and you will get burned out. This happens to many people.
One of the rules that can help is this little phrase, very simple:
As it is.
If things are distracting you, if they are bothering you, if things are disturbing you, you feel agitated, you feel anxious, just remember that all things are as they are; observe it, and do not react. All you have to do is to observe things as they are. Observe them as they are; let go of the desire to change any phenomena. Do not have attachments or expectations about anything.
Relax and watch; the mind will settle on its own accord in accordance to your persistence. They say in Tibet that when a person goes to be a monk, he first has to go on a long retreat for six months to a year simply to develop Shamatha. That is meditating 8 to 10 hours a day. So do not expect that you are going to get it in a week or two. It will take time and effort. But the rewards are invaluable, because it brings peace. And that is what we want right? If we want peace, we have to cultivate it inside and these simple exercises lead directly to it.
There are two signs that show that someone has developed Shamatha. First, they are naturally attracted to Shamatha; that means that they want to keep practicing. And the second is a calm mind that cannot be distracted.
There are actually nine distinct levels of Shamatha. We will discuss this later. But you need to know that the ultimate technique that we are going learn in this course does not require that you have the most fully developed Shamata. If you just have preliminary concentration you will be able to utilize the technique we are working toward.
The second sign of the development of Shamata is a calm mind. This means that thoughts may still arise, only we are not distracted by them. This is very important to understand clearly. Thoughts and distractions may still come, but they do not cause us to forget our meditation. We do not get absorbed by them. We continue holding on to the mast of the ship and we see the distraction come and we see it go; it does not take us with it now. This is opposed to the way most of us are now; when we try to meditate we get pulled right along by whatever distractions come. It is like we are in a raging ocean and we get tossed by wave after wave. Properly established Shamatha means that we see the waves but we do not go with them. It just takes persistence.
The other aspect to properly developed Shamatha is that it is not dull, it is not hazy and it is not vague. It is very sharp. It is very clear. When someone has developed this level of concentration they are able to sit with concentration, expansiveness, there is no sense of anxiety or tension or something gripping onto us or being battered by thoughts and sensations. There is an openness and peace; it is very relaxed. These are all aspect that we need to understand.
The route to this place is by means of a profound attentiveness. It is not a state of distraction. It is very attentive.
States of Consciousness
At the very base we have what in Greek is called Ekasia. This is the level of consciousness that is brutal, instinctive, animalistic etc. This is becoming a very popular state of consciousness nowadays. People really like to behave like animals. It is very common and popular now to cultivate animal behavior. It is popular especially in movies and TV. Most of the movies now have violence and people fulfilling all their animal desires. They are all about cultivating this level of consciousness. It is the lowest possible level, but that is what our culture likes.
The next level we have is called Pistis in Greek. This is the level of opinions and beliefs. This is the most common level that humanity has developed.
Most people in the course of an entire lifetime will live completely in these two levels of consciousness. So between these two we develop our religion, our culture, all of our ideas and our ideas, of our self. Both of these levels are fed by the sensual mind, by our concepts about sensation and what we experience of life through sensations. Most people never go further than that.
On the Line of Being, these two states describe a very narrow range of consciousness.
Another way of looking at this is that Ekasia can also been seen as physical sleep, because it is a form of sleep; it is the sleeping consciousness. The consciousness sleeps while we rest physically and it sleeps while we walk around. This what we would normally call the "Vigil State," where we are up and walking around with our physical bodies. But in the context of understanding the bigger picture, one begins to see that there is very little difference between Ekasia, animal behavior, and Pistis, the level of opinions and beliefs.
We see these in our lives now, where most people live their "Vigil" life acting out of instinctive desires, being driven by fear. That is their only motivation in life, being driven by a lack of security, feeling afraid, like they are going to loose everything, they do not have any money, they are not safe. That is instinctive and mechanical, and many people live their lives entirely in that level of consciousness, terrified.
Some live their lives entirely in the world of the mind, amongst ideas and concepts, and for them this kind of teaching remains just another concept, just more ideas, just another teaching. For them, this knowledge just becomes more garbage to stuff the mind.
When we learn to pay attention in a very practical way, a very direct way, every moment of every day pushing to separate ourselves from concepts, from beliefs, and from ideals, from emotions, and sensations, we can change all of this.
We must push to become conscious. We do that through learning to be attentive, which is called Self-observation, and we learn to see the three brains but not be in them, to separate from them. We observe thoughts, we observe feelings, we observe our actions, but always with a sense of inner separation. That effort needs to become consistent, persistent, continuous.
When it becomes continuous it can become Self-remembering. Self-remembering is consistent, continuous observation of oneself while also being aware of one's own inner Being. It means one is present, one is observing, and simultaneously aware of That which is beyond the five senses. One is conscious of everything that one is doing.
This has nothing to do with an idea or a concept. It has nothing to do at all with a belief. It has nothing to do with feeling good or feeling bad, looking good or looking bad. It is purely conscious attention, that is all.
Conscious attention is beyond who we think we are, who we want to be, who we want people to think we are. It is beyond all of that. And no one can do it for us, nobody. Only the individual has to develop that capacity and it is difficult, very difficult.
But if we establish that continuity of conscious attention then we become established in the next level of consciousness which is called in Greek Dianoia, a radical conscious development. The term Dianoia is being used nowadays by a very famous school called "Dianetics." But what they are teaching is how to use the mind, which is opposite of Gnosis. We are teaching how to use the consciousness, and it is not the same thing. But many get confused because of the terminology.
Dianoia is the called 3rd State of Consciousness, and we must become consistent, never stopping, pushing to establish ourselves there. This means that we have to be able to observe ourselves in the three brains as if the body was an actor and inside is the director. The director is the consciousness which is directly connected to our own Inner Divinity. It is that part in us that is supposed to be making the decisions and knows good from bad.
To be established in the 3rd State of Consciousness is to have continuity of the remembrance of God, our true Self, our Innermost Father, whose presence is established in us by the continual and active direction of conscious attention. This is Self-remembering.
Pinocchio is a Gnostic story, written by a Gnostic initiate. It is a story about a wooden boy who is a puppet and wants to become a real man. The puppet is the terrestrial man and his guide is the consciousness, Jimini Cricket. He is the quiet voice inside who the boy generally ignores; that is our consciousness, the part in us that knows good from bad. But it is quiet. And when the mind is active and we are caught up in our desires, we do not hear him, we ignore him. Usually he tells us to do what we do not want to do, we want to go be famous like Pinocchio. We do not want to listen to that voice.
Learning to meditate is learning how to make that voice strong, to make that voice, the consciousness, be the one who runs the show; no longer the mind, no longer desire, but the superior part of us.
Establishing ourselves in the 3rd State of Consciousness, Self-remembering, brings radical change because that is where we begin to renounce everything below it, everything that belongs to lower levels of consciousness. Where we had opinions and beliefs based on our pride and fear, where we had instinctive behavior based on our pride and our fears, addictions, all kinds of problems, we start to change and renounce those things; this is why Dianoia is defined by Samael Aun Weor as "revision of beliefs."
Meditation is a function of the consciousness. The consciousness is attention. Shamatha is the Calm Mind that results from directing the attention; this is Self-remembering or Self-observation. It is all about developing attention, that is all.
If you really want to learn this, learn to meditate all day long. Learn to never be distracted. There are a few ways you can do that. Do not ever do more than one thing at a time until you learn to do it consciously. Most people hate this. It means that you should not eat a hamburger and drive your car and talk on the cell phone and have the radio going all at the same time. We like doing that. It means you should not be working on the computer and eating lunch and talking on the phone and having a radio or the TV on all at the same time. Basically when we do this it means that our consciousness is being dispersed into many things, and this means there is no cohesive, concentrated attention. Thus if we are also trying to learn to meditate we will become very frustrated because we have not recognized those behaviors that develop the obstacles to meditation.
We have to learn to focus attention on one thing at a time. Do one thing and do it with your full attention. Most people believe that this means they will work slower. Most people believe this means we will not get as much done, but the opposite is true. We do not know because we do not know how to do it, and we are so used to our habits, the way live life now, that we do not want to change.
If you want to know how to meditate, you have to change your habits, your day to day habits. Find the things that keep you distracted and change them.
Here are some ideas: you want to be radical? Stop watching television. Television pushes us to fantasize and daydream. We watch the TV, but we think of something else; it is the same with movies. Just stop for a little while, a couple of months. Stop listening to music for a couple of months. Try it and watch how your mind will try to drive you crazy.
We are so used to having things to keep us distracted so that we can avoid the true state of our consciousness. If you want to see your true state, stop distracting yourself. We read trashy novels, we watch television, we talk on the phone too much, we gossip, we go shopping, all of these things are distractions to help us avoid the truth.
These habits have to change if we want to learn how to meditate, all of them. It does not mean you never go shopping again. It does not mean you never go to a movie again. It means the next time you go, you will do it with full conscious attention. If you even go back. You might not. You might find out that those habits were really harmful and hurting you inside but you just could not deal with it.
Again, we need courage. So, meditation is actually easy, but to get there is not. You have to renounce a lot of behaviors and change a lot of things to know how to meditate.
Now, the point of all this is not merely to develop concentration, that is just preliminary. The point of developing stable, attentive, concentration all day long and when we sit to meditate is to develop Shamatha. But really the reason we develop Shamatha is to learn how to meditate. The concentration practices, and mantra practices and all the other steps are preliminary. Real meditation is a way to get information.
You get a group of 10 meditators, one from each continent, and you tell them all without the other ones knowing, "I want you to meditate on this symbol," let's say a cross. And they all do it without knowing that the other ones are doing it. When you get their feedback, you get the information that they were able to get, not through concentration but through meditation, and you will get the same answer from all of them. The consciousness is a universal language, and the symbols have universal meanings. Yogis and practitioners from all over the world will reach the same results. The way they get there might be a little different, the picture might look different, the image might be different, the words might be different, but the meaning is the same. That is why all of the world religions have the same essential symbols; they all have a cross, they all have a serpent, they all have a virgin, they all have the Christ. They all have it. The great religions are all one; the forms change, but the truth is the same. Samadhi is the way to reach that universal truth.
First we develop concentration, Shamata, then we develop Vipassana. This word is also very interesting. VI comes from VIESA which means "special" or "superior." ASHANA means "to perceive." So VIPASSANA means "to perceive the superior."
This word Vipassana, Viesa, is closely related to the word Vishnu. It is also closely related to this word VISION, and it is also closely related to this word WISDOM. Esoterically speaking, they are all the same thing. Vishnu in Hinduism is "the one who penetrates," and he is the one who sent all his Avatars: Krishna, Rama. They were all manifestations of "the power to penetrate," "wisdom." Vishnu is here in Chokmah. Chokmah means "wisdom." It is amazing, is not it? Hinduism and Judaism say the same thing.
So every Avatar and Christ that descends is from this sphere; Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Vishnu, all of them. And their characteristics are peace (Shamata), and the capacity to perceive the superior (Vipassana). Chochmah is an energy that we have inside as well, and we can know it through the consciousness.
The root capacity of the consciousness is to perceive, to see. We can see because we have consciousness. Plants and animals have it too. Believe it or not so do minerals, and so does light. Quantum physics, modern science, has proven that light is intelligent. Light makes choices. It is not mechanical. They have done a test where they set up so that one little quanta, a packet of light, will come out of a device, and it will hit something that it has to go around, so it has to choose one way or the other. On one side, there will be a device that will absorb the light, so if it goes on that side, the light will disappear. If it goes on the other side it will keep going. So they shoot one quanta that goes into the side that gets absorbed, and after that not a single quanta will go that way. That one packet of light can perceive and it is connected to all the other packets of light.
Now in Hebrew and in Kabbalah this has been known for a long time, and the same with Hinduism and Buddhism. That light is the light of the supernal triangle. And this is what we know as the Cosmic Christ. And what do we say about the Christ here? He is the Son, the Sun, the Solar Light. Who are all the heroes and gods from all time, from all religions? They are all solar gods, sun gods: Apollo, Helios, Zeus, Balder, Superman, Mithra, Jesus, Mercury, all of them. They all had relationships to the sun God Ra. He is the light that penetrates.
That light is in every human being. That is the light of consciousness. But when we live life distracted, we waste that light and we die never having known anything other than our beliefs, our opinions and a lot of suffering.
Regarding the word Wisdom, the first part WIS is related to this term VIESA which means "superior" but It is also the root of vision, "to see." DOM, as in "to dominate," "to have power." Wisdom then is "the power to penetrate the superior." The power to see beyond the normal things. Wisdom is the same as Vipassana. So when we refer to the Saints as having a lot of wisdom, really esoterically it means that they can see more than we can. We just have to develop that capacity. So these two sides, Shamata and Vipassana, are what we are going develop in this course.
Ride the horse of Calm Abiding and use the sharp weapon of Insight to cut through the net of distorted perception and grasping. - Tsong Khapa
He is saying to use Shamatha and Vispassana together to penetrate through suffering. Together they give us the power to change, to remove delusion. To cut out illusion. To change the mind.
By cutting through the illusions of the mind we can rise to the Fourth State of Consciousness: Nous. Nous is perfectly awakened consciousness. This is the level of consciousness of Samadhi. To have that incarnated, meaning to live in that state, one must be a very developed being, very pure, and having not a single imperfection. Until then, we can taste it from time to time.
When we are developing meditation we are working through Asana, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, to reach Samadhi, or Nous. These levels Pratyahara, Dharana, and Dhyana are part of the 3rd state. They are levels of development. What we are working to develop is perfect penetrating power of consciousness, with the complete and permanent separation from the "I."
Spend ten to fifteen minutes relaxing and vocalizing the sound "O." While vocalizing, visualize a strong, warm light in your heart.
Spend ten to fifteen minutes concentrating your attention on the flame of the candle. Do not allow your mind to wander at all. You can measure your ability to concentrate by length of time you maintain continuity of attention. If the mind becomes distracted, return to concentrating.
Throughout, one should continue relaxing deeper and deeper.
Do this practice everyday without exception. It is necessary to develop strong discipline in order to advance in the Gnostic Work.