Concentration Symbolized in Tibetan Buddhism

Over the past year we have given a series of lectures about the essentials of meditation, the most fundamentals things that you need to know in order to have an effective meditation practice.  

The tools we are using in this course are on these graphics.  

shamatha lg

The painting here is a very old representation given by the Buddha Maitreya. It is part of Tibetan Buddhism, and it outlines the essential stages of developing meditative serenity.  You can say it is concentration; specifically, it is the ability to place attention on one thing and not be distracted. That map has nine essential stages through which a serious meditator will work. The beauty of the map is not only does it explain the basic stages of developing concentration, it also explains the obstacles that you face and gives you the antidotes to overcome them. Once you apply those techniques through the course of your practice in developing meditative serenity and you reach the upper levels, you have developed what is commonly called one pointed mind, perfect concentration, Dharana, Dhyana, or Samadhi, or in other words, you have this quality called pliancy.

Pliancy is specifically defined as the conduciveness of body and mind to meditate, meaning that your body and your mind do not fight meditation. They do not distract you. Your body and mind are not an obstacle at all. In fact, they are willing helpers to your spiritual life. Of course, that is the opposite of the way it is for most people.  For most people the physical body and the mind are obstacles in their spiritual lives, because the body has lots of wants and needs and our mind has lots of wants and needs, and we tend to spend our lives just satisfying the desires of the body and mind.

So that map is really significant.  It is entirely practical, and it has nothing to do with beliefs, but provides a very clear structure that you can follow in order to acquire meditative serenity.

tree of life

This other map that we rely on is called the Tree of Life.  It is also the primary symbol of the tradition called Kabbalah. This symbol represents the universe, all the levels of the things that exist and the things that have the potential to exist.  That is not only outside of us, but it is inside of us. Even though it looks complicated, it is actually quite a simple tool. Once you start studying it you become accustomed to it. It is very beautiful and extremely powerful.  

We use these two symbols in combination in order to understand meditation and develop our spiritual life in an effective way.  

Through this course that we have given in the last year, we have explained how these two symbols relate to each other and the type of knowledge they can convey to us in order to help us to develop our spiritual life effectively.  

In the previous lecture, we talked about this word comprehension.  We introduced the notion that there is a kind of knowledge that is beyond intellectual knowledge, and we call it comprehension.  You can also call it understanding. This is not anything you can acquire from anyone. It is a knowledge that only comes from inside of you.  It can never come from any other source. It is knowledge that belongs to the consciousness or to the soul. It is the kind of penetrating wisdom that cuts through illusion, desire, and suffering, and reveals the truth.

When you know the truth of something, everything changes and you can never go back.  Once you know the truth about something, you cannot unknow it.

Comprehension is like that.  Once you have comprehension, everything changes.  It is that kind of knowledge that is like a lighting bolt, a living thing, an energetic thing, and undeniable thing.  

So with comprehension we see the truth of the thing, we see the reality of the thing, and moreover we see the illusions for what they are.  This is what we want when we meditate. We want comprehension. We want a kind of knowledge that allows us to not suffer the way we have been suffering.  A kind of knowledge that allows us with grace and love undo the problems of suffering. Not only to help ourselves come out of suffering, but to help others come out from suffering. So on the Tree of Life, that type of knowledge is represented at the very upper portion of this symbol.  

Briefly, the Tree of Life represents densities in nature, both outside of us and inside of us.  At the very upper reaches are the most subtle, most primordial forces.

At the very height is what is called the Absolute.  It is unmanifested and the potentiality to be, but has not yet become.  When that expresses into becoming we have the first emergence into existence, which is the primordial energy or presence in nature.  

In religions that is always represented as a trinity, and you see that trinity here at the top, but it is interesting to know these words in Hebrew that describe that trinity.  The first one is Kether, which means “crown.” The second one is Chokmah, which means “wisdom.” The third one is Binah, which means “intelligence” or “understanding.”

When that trinity creates, it does it through this hidden region called Daath in Hebrew, and that means “knowledge.”  

At the top you have a crown, wisdom, intelligence, and knowledge.  These are all expressions of the fundamental trinity of existence that Christians call Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The Hindus call it: Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva. The Buddhist call it the Trikaya: Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, Nirmanakaya. If you have studied any religion you know about this essential trinity.

They represent a level of intelligence, a type of insight into reality, a type of knowledge.  It is a cognizance. It is consciousness, but with profound knowledge. That is inside of us in a germinal, potential state; it is not outside of us.  We all have that within. That is our most primordial nature. The most primordial aspect of that which gives us life is this type of knowingness, a type of knowledge, but in us it is undeveloped.  It is in potential and if we work with it and learn to access it then it can be expressed through us.

Comprehension is how we start to access that. In Sanskrit in both Buddhism and Hinduism that type of knowledge is Prajna. When you break that Sanskrit down, pra means “beyond” and jna means “knowledge.”  

It is a type of knowledge that is related to that which is beyond. It is the very heart of beingness.  A type of knowledge that is beyond what we know of as knowledge. It is beyond concept, theory, and belief.  Instead, it is the knowing of reality, the truth.

The goal of meditation, the purpose of it, is to access that type of knowledge.  

We need to understand our position in relation with it. That type of knowledge is inside of us. It is something that we can access, but only if we understand how.  Through the tools that we are using in this moment, our access to that is very limited. That is because we are very much limited by the conditioning that we are currently experiencing.  When we study ourselves in relation with nature, we see that we are much more than we can perceive immediately.

Physicality

In the Tree of Life, if we look at how it maps our structure as a person, we would start here and now with the physical body.  This is the most obvious aspect that we have to work with on a daily basis. Our physicality is represented here on the Tree of Life as the lowest of those ten circles.  This is called Malkuth, the kingdom. This is our kingdom, the body. That physicality is marked by the fives senses, that ability to sense physical experience.

tree of life

Specifically in regard to meditation, when we want to meditate the first thing we have to deal with is the physical body.  We place it in a posture, but what is the experience that most of us have? The body does not like it, it complains. It has pain, it has discomfort, it is hot, it is cold, it is hearing sounds in the next room, or someone is playing music or someone is talking too loud or there are car sounds or dogs barking and we get very agitated because of the experiences of the physical senses. So we are disturbed, not only physically, but emotionally we react to that, we may even react to it with our thoughts.  What this demonstrates to us is that we are very much identified with physicality and that we have not developed sufficient will to cultivate that power of pliancy, which is what I was describing earlier as something very pronounced at the upper levels of developing meditative serenity.

When you have pliancy, the physical body is able to sit in its posture, calm and relaxed, regardless of the physical circumstances.  If you have studied any of the meditation traditions you will know the stories of the yogis and masters who were able to sit and meditate despite incredible difficulties.  

The example that comes into my mind is a master of Chan Buddhism who was so devoted to understanding and reaching comprehension that even though he had dysentery and was dying he did not stop his meditation.  If you know what dysentery is, you will realize that is an unbelievable amount of willpower to sit in meditation in spite of that type of illness. That is how much will he had, and how much pliancy he developed; the body was capable of maintaining its posture so that his consciousness could continue working in case he died.  He didn’t, he overcame it.

That is the sort of power that is necessary, because we will all die and if you are able to meditate through the process of death you will have incredible influence over what happens to you next.  But if you are very much a victim of the suffering of the body, you will not. Instead you will pass through that experience unconsciously and with a very unpredictable outcome.

If one is able to develop pliancy with the physical body, then the body is able to sit and be undisturbed despite any external or sensual interference, whether sounds, noises, hot, cold, hungry, thirsty. You will sit and meditate in spite of it because you have control over the body.

Energy

What about the person who sits to meditate but quickly falls asleep?  Why does that happen? Let’s relate it to the second sephiroth, Yesod, vitality.  There is no energy.

Yesod is the superior aspect of the physical body.  When we do not have sufficient energy, vitality, in the body, we need to sleep to recover it.  

Similarly, when we lose the ability to be concentrated and focused in our meditation practice, this is partly due to a lack of energy. This is not just energy in the body, but energy to fuel our attention. Students fall asleep in class. Drivers fall asleep behind the wheel. Employees fall asleep at work. To fall asleep in this way does not always mean that they body falls asleep. The body can remain active. It is the attention that has drifted away. When our attention lacks energy, it drifts, and we lose awareness. That is the sleep we mean: it is a state of distraction.

This is very common among meditation students. Many can sit and start their meditation practice, but quickly become distracted and remain unaware that they are supposed to be concentrating. That is a lack of energy.

Emotion

Another experience is when we are trying to practice meditation but have too many surging emotions.  We have a lot of anxiety, a lot of fear, we have a lot of envy, we are very angry, we are very afraid, and we are very excited.

Perhaps we had a dream, a vision, or something like that and we want to go back to that experience.  We are excited, yet may also be afraid of it.

In this type of scenario, the obstacle here is the emotion, which is related with Hod.  

Thought

The next is related with Netzach.  When you are trying to concentrate, but the mind will not stop; it is constantly analyzing, thinking, naming things and labeling things, trying to explain things logically with reasoning. That is not meditation. That is thinking. Thought is an obstacle. It is a bad habit.

None of these can lead to real comprehension.  

Physical sensations are simply sensations.  They do not provide access to reality.

In the same way, energetic sensations are simply sensations. They are fundamentally illusory. They do not provide access to reality or comprehension. Sensations are not reliable. Definitely, they provide nothing reliable in relation with consciousness or meditation.  Some people want to meditate on chakras, or on the meridians and the energy moving around inside of us. They want to have experiences of energy moving or auras. It is a waste of time! It is just energy. Experiences of energy do not mean anything and do not change anything. In the same way that it means nothing to feel your lungs filled with air, it also means nothing to feel a chakra.  Energy is just energy. The body is filled with energy, and we need it, but energy undirected and unmanaged is just that: undirected energy. Do not be fascinated by that! Do not let that become an obstacle!

The same occurs with emotion and thought; we need them, they are useful, but we are hypnotized by them. They are very limited in their abilities.  Neither emotion nor thought sees the truth. We do not realize that.

All of us struggle with all of these obstacles, each in our own way.  That is why we teach meditation in the very specific way that we do, in order to access real knowledge: comprehension.

To reach comprehension, all of these conditions have to be suspended, especially during your meditation practice. We need to free the consciousness of the conditions of the physical body, energy, emotion, and thought. This cannot be done solely by trying in the moments we are meditating. To succeed, one has to be doing this all day long, and ultimately, all night, too.

If you can suspend those conditions and be concentrated at all times in all activities, then you reach comprehension more rapidly.  

When beginning meditation, we place the body (Malkuth) in a position and we leave it there, still and motionless.  We make it still and relaxed. We no longer engage with it and we extract our attention from it. The body should be placed and then forgotten.  

With energy (Yesod), we harness it, we work with it, and we direct it. Practically speaking, this means that once the body is positioned, we relax deeply and do some pranayamas or mantras, in order to harness energy and direct it. Then we set that aside. We are not hypnotized by energy or fascinated by it.  

With emotion, we let it go. Just as we relax our body and our energy, we also have to relax our mood, our emotional state.  We are no longer hypnotized by emotions and we are not identified with them. We let them be. In other words, we are not trying to resolve our problems emotionally with emotion.  

It is the same with thought. We leave them be. We disengage from them. We separate our attention from thought.

Consciousness is not physical, energetic, emotional, or mental.

Only consciousness can meditate.

Thus, we are not trying to resolve our problems with thoughts.  or meditate through thinking, or meditate through feeling.

Instead we want to suspend physicality, suspend energy, suspend emotion, suspend thought, and become will.  

Observe and Understand

Will is attention, placed and directed.  

In our meditation practice today, we said “visualize your experience of today.”  In that moment you would suspend the body, energy, thought, and emotion and become attention. As attention, you observe the memory, not thinking about it, not feeling emotions about it, but simply observing the facts of what could be remembered visually.  

In that state, we are accessing something higher on the Tree of Life.  The higher you go on the Tree of Life, the closer you are getting to the truth, to reality.  The lower you go on the Tree of Life the further you are away from reality.

Ideally in meditation this is what we would do. Ideally we would have pliancy so that our body and mind are very conducive to meditation and they do not fight with us.  The body and mind obey. We sit, close our eyes, shut the senses off, withdraw from body, energy, emotion and thought, and simply imagine the thing we need to understand. That’s it: we just imagine it. We do not analyze with thoughts or wander through our feelings (emotions). Instead, we simply observe the facts.  If we do that well and with some accuracy, then it is effortless.

This does not require effort, since we are utilizing the natural abilities of the consciousness.  What are those abilities? Firstly, the ability to perceive, and secondly, the ability to understand. Those are natural in us. Those are not forced and do not require skill.  It does not take skill to look, and it also does not take skill to understand the truth.

A child for example, a baby, is very small and can see the parents fighting, and know they are fighting, and know there is pain.  They do not have the intellectual idea yet, or the words for it. They do not necessarily fully understand emotionally what is going on, but by perceiving it they do understand what is happening.  Even a dog can do that. A dog can see a fight and know what is going on, just because it has consciousness. What I am trying to indicate to you is that it does not take skill to see and understand the basic facts of things.

Yet, that ability has the potential to be grown and expanded very profoundly, not only to perceive what is happening, even non-physically, but to understand in levels that are very profound.  Only consciousness can do that.

Diving into the Depths

The goal in meditation is to increasingly separate from everything that is low on this tree and go as high as possible – In other words, to withdraw inside ourselves as deeply as we can, and get closer and closer to seeing reality.  

This can be difficult for us to conceptualize or understand because on this graphic it is organized in a vertical pattern. In truth, experientially it is not vertical, physically.  Experientially, it is a withdrawal into the depths inside of ourselves, to go deeper and deeper into the consciousness. It is a matter of depth, not physical height.

The Trikaya, the trinity, is not above us in the sky, it is inside of us, but deep inside of the consciousness.  Someone who has the ability to access meditation can immediately jump into these deeper levels, immediately, without effort.  They can immediately cease paying attention to the body, energy, emotion and thought and to become will, to see something and understand it.  It is not a matter of time. It is not a matter of effort. This happens without effort and without exertion, because it is a natural ability that every living thing has if we learn to use it.  It is as effortless as hearing or seeing, but of course is using a different sense.

This ability is rooted in Tiphereth on the Tree of Life. It is directly in the middle. It is related to our consciousness and our willpower.

From Tiphereth, the consciousness has access to all the parts of the Tree of Life.  Most significantly, it can perceive that which we call God, Buddha, Master, Atman.

Only the consciousness has access to that perception.  The physical body does not. The mind does not. Emotion does not.  

Emotion wants to know God, but by itself it cannot. Only Consciousness can know God.  

The mind wants to know God, the body wants sensory proof of God, but it cannot know that.  The consciousness can know. That is why we need to learn to use it. To do so, we need to know how to extract it from conditioning.

Conditioning

The main problem we have is that we have too much desire, too much pride, too much anger, too much envy, fear, lust and that is what is represented in the shadow of the Tree.  It represents the submerged levels of our mind.

Generally when we sit to meditate, we might get the body to relax.  We might be able to have calm emotions and calm serene thought and we might be able to place attention.  Then what is going to come up in our imagination? What will we visualize? What will we be seeing in our minds’ eye?  

Let us say we had a fight with somebody and we want to understand, “why am I suffering with this anger?  Why am I suffering with this pain with the fight I had with this person?” We sit to meditate, we visualize that scene, we start remembering, and the pain blooms again; thoughts emerge, and soon we are imagining how we were wronged, and how we will get our revenge. We are imagining how our pride was hurt and we want their pride to be hurt.  We want them to feel shame and remorse.

When we have envy for something we do not have and we are trying to meditate on that trying to understand, we generally start feeding that envy instead of really understanding that envy.  

Obviously, that is not going to help us change. Fortunately, we can learn to overcome this problem.

The Three Trainings

The work is challenging. To successfully do it requires a very specific set of skills.  The whole of the course we have given is based on this concept in Buddhism called the three trainings. This concept is present in every religion. It is the essential structure in every religion.  But we used these terms specifically because they are so precise.

The Three Trainings

  • Sila: ethics
  • Samadhi: meditative ecstasy
  • Prajna: profound wisdom

1: Ethics

The basis of all spiritual life is ethics. It is the first step, and it is the step on which everything else depends.  

Every religion has their own name for ethics.  By ethics we do not mean morals, or doing what we tell you to do.  

Ethics means you adopt beneficial actions, actions that not only benefit yourself but benefits others.  

You also stop harmful actions, not only harmful actions against yourself, but harmful actions against others.  This means not only physically, but mentally. This means that not only should you not speak with violence against other people physically with your mouth, but also in your mind.  Not only should you not curse your neighbor or speak harshly to others verbally, but also in your mind. That includes all the behaviors in our mind.

All of our actions — physically, emotionally and mentally — produce the state of mind and body that we are experiencing.  We do not access real knowledge (prajna) because our body and mind are disturbed.

When we change our behavior and we adopt beneficial actions, everything calms down.  We become serene, we become happy. Instead of feeling anger, envy, lust and pride and all the pain we have, we start to feel happiness and love for others and compassion for others, and gratitude for what we do have.  

Those qualities stabilize the mind and body and we become calm, we become serene.  That is what this path is based on, meditative serenity – to develop pliancy of mind and body.  

That pliancy is represented on the graphic by the elephant.  Do you see how calm and relaxed the elephant is and looks attentively at its master, ready to obey?  Only a mind that is ethical can serve in that way. Only a body that behaves ethically can serve in that way.  

How do you learn ethics?  You do not learn it in a book.  You learn it from yourself, from your conscience.  Your conscience is that part or yourself that knows right from wrong.  It knows when to speak and when not to speak and when to act and when not to act.  Your conscience knows what is right and what is wrong.

Where is the conscience?  Where do you feel it? In a thought?  Is the conscience in thoughts? No, everybody know that!  It is in your heart.

It is not a voice, it is not a thought, and it is not a word. It is a kick.  It is a pulse, a movement in your heart and you feel it, not think it. But usually we ignore it because it contradicts our desires.  It contradicts our anger, envy, and pride. Our pride wants to stand out and be out on top. Our anger wants revenge; our envy wants what others have.  The conscience tells us we do not need those things, but we do not listen to that. That is why we act wrongly, and end up suffering.

By listening to conscience, following the conscience, we develop ethics. Then, the mind and body stabilize and become serene and then we can access Samadhi.  That is the second training.

2: Samadhi

Samadhi refers to a state of consciousness.

Samadhi is a state of experience as a perceiver, where the ego is not conditioning consciousness at all.  In such a moment, there is no desire, no anger, no pride, no envy, no greed, no gluttony, no laziness, no lust and no fear.  Instead there is contentment, serenity, and happiness. We have that inside if we stabilize the mind and body, if we do what is right and we act in a beneficial way for ourselves and others.  

When we access Samadhi, what we are accessing is the consciousness unconditioned, unfiltered by sensations or desire for sensation.  It is unfiltered by emotion and intellect.

Samadhi is the experience of the pure consciousness, released from all those cages on the lower part of the Tree of Life.  

In that state (which we call an ecstasy) is when the consciousness experiences its’ true nature.  We then and only then have access to real knowledge; which is Prajna, wisdom.

3: Profound Wisdom

You see, this is a very simple structure.  Stabilize the mind and body by doing what is right and ceasing harmful action leads to no longer having guilt, remorse and regret and start to feel happy, calm, content, and have gratitude, compassion, love, and patience.  With all of that, the mind settles and our true nature becomes accessible to us, and it alone has the ability to see reality. Our anger cannot see reality. Our pride cannot see reality.

Only when consciousness is free of conditions can we see and then understand.  

That means in all of our experiences in all times and all places, through our use of our body (motor, instinctual and sexual brains), through our emotion, through our intellect, we need to be measuring ourselves.  Are we really serene? Are we really at peace? Are we really accepting our circumstances and transforming them for the benefit of ourselves and others?

We all have pride, anger, envy, greed, gluttony, and avarice.  Until those qualities are radically eliminated, we will never have true, lasting serenity.

You can totally ignore your anger, pride, and envy and fool yourself into thinking you are serene. Many people do this. You can run off to the woods and isolate yourself from humanity.  You might start to feel a little serenity because there is no one there that will poke at your pride. There is no one there that will make you feel envy or lust. If you just run away from all these unacceptable, uncomfortable, and painful qualities, you will never change them.  

Observe an addict.  The addict who simply avoids their addiction might be sober for a year, but if they do not comprehend that addiction it will come back stronger and will overwhelm them and destroy them.  Probably some of us have observed that, or may even be living it.

The only way that you can really be free from the suffering caused by pride, anger, envy is to deeply understand them. They are deceptive. They can never bring real happiness.  It is only by directly confronting them that we can achieve that.

Serenity, peacefulness, contentment, and acceptance are our goal, but they are not something that we try to fake, just trying to act that way, because that is a lie. Many people act serene but are not. They are lying to themselves.  

Happiness emerges spontaneously as we eliminate that within us that prevents it.  What prevents happiness is not external, but internal. The obstacles to happiness and wisdom are within us.

When you eliminate your anger, when you really comprehend your anger, you will not feel anger.  You will feel love. Even when someone is being terrible towards you, you will not be angry with them because you will understand their suffering.  You will feel compassion for them.

That is how this works. Through comprehension we develop the ability to access serenity.  The method is to combine the skills of the consciousness.

How to Meditate on Something

The goal of meditation practice is to reach comprehension and understanding of the qualities that make us suffer.  The only way to fully and deeply comprehend them is to cultivate and use the powers that the consciousness has. They are very nicely synthesized in this simple equation.  

Concentration + Imagination = Meditation

Concentration combined with imagination leads to meditation.  

This very simple equation will help you to develop your meditation skill to the perfect degree.  

If you have studied meditation with any tradition you may find that they only offer part of the equation. Some traditions only teach concentration practice.  Some only teach imagination practice. It is rare to find those that still teach the combination of the two.

It is the combination that utilizes the full power of the consciousness to change.  That is what we teach: how to unite them.

The method that we worked with before the lecture today is a method to effortlessly utilize those skills in harmony with each other. To do that successfully, you need to have already developed some skill.

To utilize the technique that we call retrospection, you need to already have the ability to concentrate.  Did you find when you are trying to do this practice that you could not concentrate? Were you forgetting that you were meditating or were you caught up in thinking or caught up in remembering things and you got distracted for a while?  If so, that means you that you need to work with techniques to develop more concentration.

That is what is mapped in the nine stages.  

When we get distracted easily, we are still in these lower levels of meditative serenity.  What we need in order to use retrospection effectively is the ability to meditate and not forget that we are meditating.  Whether you are sitting for ten minutes, twenty minutes, or an hour, we need the ability to be aware of what we are doing throughout that time.  If we are forgetting that we are meditating and we get distracted and drift away for a while, then that shows us that we need to develop more concentration.

It is advisable then for that student to daily work on concentration practices until they develop the ability to not forget what they are doing.  This is called mindfulness: to remain mindful of what you are doing. When you are mindful, you are not distracted by anything. You remain aware of what you are doing. This is necessary to practice all day long, in everything we do.  It is the most basic skill in meditation practice. Mindfulness is to be present and be aware of what you are doing at all times and to not be distracted.

When you are driving your car, just drive your car. You are not thinking about other things.  When you are cooking, you are only cooking, and you are aware of what you are doing. That continuity of awareness is what builds your concentration to be very strong.

Secondly, you may find that while you may have some degree of concentration, when you try to remember the scene or the events that happened throughout the day, those memories are not clear.  The memories are fleeting. You may be able to recall an image and it comes briefly and then goes away. Or it comes briefly and starts to change into something that did not really happen. That shows that you need to develop the skill of visualization more profoundly.   

In synthesis, once you develop concentration and imagination in combination with each other, we learn to use them in meditation practice, and retrospection is one of the purposes of that.  It is the most significant, because it leads to comprehension. We sit to meditate, put the physical body to rest, and we direct and utilize energy to stabilize mind and body. We disengage from emotion.  We disengage from thinking. We place attention and willpower on visualizing the event that we want to understand. Everything below visualization and imagination is suspended. The body, emotion, and thought are still and silent, and if something happens there we do not pay attention to it.  We ignore it. You may be aware of it but you do not want to engage in it.

This is the goal at this phase of practice.  You will place attention on the thing you want to understand and visualize it.  

This thing you want to understand can be anything.  It can be a memory, an experience, it can be an emotion, it can be a thought, it can be a scripture, a teaching, it can be a mantra.  

What we want to do is place that element that we want to understand there in the screen of our imagination and hold it there, and then we wait.  

You might wait a long time. If you are patient and your concentration is good, and your visualization is good, and you watch that element patiently, at some point something new will emerge.  It can come out in a lot of different ways. Whatever that new thing is, we need to observe it in the same way that we are observing everything else: with indifference, without excitement or desire.  

For example, you are meditating on an event, and you are imagining it, and then some new scene or new image emerges, so you get excited. Instantly, everything is disturbed. The emotion clouds your vision.  Or some image emerges and your minds starts thinking “oh, this looks like this and it reminds me of this.” That is intellect. That is associative thought. The experience is interrupted. The conscious aspect that was able to see without the interference of emotion or intellect is over.  Now you are back into emotion and intellect, meaning your perception of reality is limited again.

What we want to reach is the ability to not react, physically, emotionally or intellectually to anything that emerges, but to simply continue observing.  

With sustained practice, our internal vision will become more and more clear and stable, and new information will emerge more easily.

When we start acquiring new information in this way, how do we evaluate it? How do we interpret it How do we know if it is reliable or just our mind play tricks? What should we measure that experience with?  It is not emotion. It is not thought. It is conscience. It is that ability of knowing the truth, right from wrong. We have a word for it. It is really misused nowadays, but it is intuition.

Intuition

Intuition is knowledge in the heart that knows without thought or emotion.  That is how you reach comprehension of something.

Intuition is profoundly related to conscience.

Intuition is a profound power.  In the beginning, it is very delicate, like a baby growing.  It has to be treated as such, with a lot of caution, respect, and a lot of gentleness, so that it can develop and become something strong.  If you are growing roses or flowers in your garden, you do not want to go jumping around and beating on them. You have to be very respectful, very nurturing, very patient, and it is the same with intuition.

If you approach it with this gentle nourishment and respect, it does grow into something very beautiful.  Overpoweringly beautiful! Magical even. But it does not arise by force. It emerges with patience.

This is what meditation practice is for. All of the techniques that any of you have ever heard of fit into the roadmap to reach this ability.  Observing a breath, meditating on chakras, doing energy practices, doing pranayamas, doing yantra work, or visualizing the gods – all of those techniques are preliminary practices.  They are just training exercises. They exist to develop your abilities so that you can in turn reflect on yourself and see the truth of who you are inside and change: so the conscience can look at the mind and see the mind without interference of body, energy, emotion, or thought.  

The conscience is rooted in the human soul (Tiphereth).  This is where we experience it as an impulse in us. It is related to the human soul.  It is that beating in the heart, that consciousness that says something is wrong don’t do that, or do that, and you do not have a thought as of to why, you may not be able to explain it logically, and it may contradict your emotions, but you know it is right.  

Conscience when it is developed becomes your connection to divinity inside of you.  It becomes far more than just a beating in the heart, a little impulse in the heart.  It becomes a torrent of knowledge that emerges out of the Divine.

That little spark that we are experiencing as conscience is connected to the upper reaches of the Tree of Life.  It is how we access knowledge (Daath), intelligence (Binah) and wisdom (Chokmah) and the crown of life (Kether). It is all reached through the conscience.  

You cannot hear the conscience when the mind is overactive and when we are identified with the physical body.  That is why all these aspects — thought emotion, energy, body — need to become passive, receptive, so that the conscience can express as knowledge in us, real knowing.  This is why we need meditation.

The process of learning meditation is not linear. It is not limited to the moments you are sitting in meditation or sitting in your cushion on your bed.  It is a living dynamic that pervades your entire life.

The impulses that you get, the intuitive insights that you get from your meditation practice, will come throughout the day and night, not only in the time you are sitting in meditation.  

This is a dynamic that you establish through practicing at all times, in all activities. You will get visions in dreams. You will get impulses doing the dishes or in the shower walking the dog and you will suddenly feel it.  Everything will change for you. You will just see it, you will know it, you will understand it, and you may not be able to put it in words, but you will know. 

That is the value of this lifestyle.  Meditation is not simply an hour per day or ten minutes per day or an hour a week or whatever it is.  It is a whole way of living. It changes everything you do and everything you experience. When you are really dedicated to it, it reveals life to you in an incredible way.  Unfolding life right before you. Seeing layers and layers and layers in yourself and understanding traumas and pains and sufferings and peeling them back and liberating yourself from the suffering of those things.  

Every time you understand a knot of suffering that you experienced, you are liberating energy from that place it was trapped and that liberated energy grows the conscience.  It expands it.

Step by step, day by day, that skill is expanding and expanding and expanding and you are capability to understand expands not only to understand yourself, but to understand others.  Not only are you reducing your anger and developing more patience, but you are developing more love.

It is a simple thing, a beautiful thing, a difficult thing, but also effortless.  

Exercises

With every lecture we give you exercises to do.  

At this stage of the course we want to continue to develop our ability to observe ourselves through the day.  This is a sense, not just a skill.

Self-observation is a sense; it is a way of perceiving and feeling. It is a way of experiencing.  

When you are observing yourself, it is based and rooted in being here and now and observing actively.  You can know you are sitting there, but it is another thing entirely to consciously know that you are sitting there.  You can know you are driving, but it is completely different to observe you are driving, to actively watch.

What needs to happen in that observation is simply the inquisitiveness of looking, but not to add thought or emotion.  Does everyone notice when late at night you hear an unusual sound in your house but you do not know what it is and that first instant you have that inquisitiveness?  Only afterwards comes a thought, “what is that?” Then the mind starts analyzing the sound, and puts together that sound with things you have experienced in the past.  That all happens very fast. The very first thing that happens is the inquisitiveness. There is an openness to mind, but the intellect rapidly narrows down all of the possibilities to what it is already known, and says “it must be the cat, or the neighbor, or the wind.”  You see how the mind does that? We need to suspend that in meditation. Stop that when you are meditating. Instead, be the one who is simply looking and does not know the answer. No longer let the mind put labels and names and compare with its past experience, because its past experience is extremely limited and conditioned entirely by suffering.  It does not know reality.

If you want to know reality, you have to be willing to look objectively, and accept that you do not know the truth already.

Self-observation should be the same. Observe yourself as if you do not know who you are. Be looking as though, “there is this strange thing, I am in this weird machine that is walking around and saying things and doing things and I do not know who is in charge of it.  Sometimes it has these emotions and thoughts coming out of it. These words coming out of it and I do not know what it is doing and who is it that is running this machine.”

This is how self-observation becomes broader.  If you are going around thinking that you know yourself and you know who you are and what you are then you are narrowing your range of perception.  Open it up and let go of all those notions of “I know who I am” because you do not, none of us do.

The second practice is that to begin working on this retrospection daily.  All day long observe yourself, and at night remember what you observed. Not analyzing, not labeling.  We do not want the intellect saying “I did this and this and it was all very logical.” That is not how you retrospect.  Retrospection is simply to recall the memories of what happened. No labels, no names, no analysis. It is where you just gather the facts.  You are simply putting together all the available facts.

Finally, after you do the retrospection, pick a fact that you want to investigate further. Meditate on that, but do not speculate on it.  Do not let your emotions color it. Do not be distracted. Just observe it as it is and be patient, and wait to see if something new emerges. If not, don’t worry. Eventually, something will.

The exercises for today, even though described in a simple way here, they do require that you have already developed some skill.  You need to have sufficient concentration, you need to have sufficient relaxation, and you need to have sufficient imagination.

You have to be honest with yourself and really recognize the level of development that you have and what you need.  

I do not expect that everyone listening to this lecture will be capable of doing these practices today.  I am explaining them so you know what you are working towards.

There is a goal and a purpose to all of this.  Start where you are. If you have a completely wild mind that will not obey you and your body will not obey you at all, start at the beginning and train it.  

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"No one can achieve illumination without having been previously purified. Only those that have achieved purification and sanctity can enter into the hall of illumination."