This is a transcription of the audio lecture Path of the Bodhisattva 07 Freedom of Discipline originally given live on Gnostic Radio, which you can download for free.
In studying the paramitas (which is the Sanskrit word for perfections), it is good for us to really understand what a paramita is, and what the term means. Oftentimes, the type of mind that we have hears this word "perfection" and considers it to be something unreachable. Of course, the path of the Bodhisattva is defined by the six primary perfections, or paramitas, which we have discussed in a previous lecture. But these paramitas should not be understood as "plateaus," as six levels of achievement; they do relate to Bodhisattva levels, or bhumis, which are degrees of attainment, but they do not indicate to us that we have to perfect each quality in order to advance to the next one. They do build one upon another: but the "perfection" of the first is not required in order to develop the second, and so on.
In fact, these six qualities, or paramitas, are all interrelated and interdependent. Truly, they are just different facets of Bodhichitta; they are just different aspects of a quality of mind, a quality of consciousness. It is probably more useful, more understandable, if we think of paramita - instead of relating it to the usual translation of "perfection" - we think of it instead as an "attitude."
Bodhichitta is a quality of mind, a state of consciousness. This state of consciousness is composed of two primary qualities: the first one compassion, or conscious love. And the second and equally important quality is the comprehension of the Void, the understanding, the direct experiential knowledge of the Voidness - the empty inherent nature of all things - in other words, the Absolute. These two qualities in combination are Bodhichitta, and that state of consciousness expresses itself by means of these paramitas; so these are fundamental attitudes. Any paramita is merely an expression of that compassionate comprehension of Emptiness. This foundation needs to be firmly grasped, otherwise the understanding of the Bodhisattva path will be elusive to us; we won't understand it.
As a state of consciousness, Bodhichitta is very special, and a very unique manifestation in the universe. It is the most precious quality that the universe can produce. Of all the myriad creations that we can observe in life: the beauties of nature, the mystical, amazing quality of our own physical body, the beauty of the growth of plants, the profound depth of the love between parent and child, the grandeur of the sky at night -- none of these can compare with Bodhichitta. The power of Bodhichitta is so awesome that the sensual mind that we have cannot comprehend it. Bodhichitta has so much transformative power, it is in fact a lightning bolt, it is a form of pure energy that is so intense and so potent that it takes a great capacitor to manage it. And this is why we have the graded stages of the path, so that we can develop ourselves as a capacitor that has enough strength to receive that potent energy of Bodhichitta and manage it properly. That energy is Christ, it is Chenrezig, it is Avalokiteshvara, it is Vishnu, it is Brahma, Shiva, it is those great Gods that sit at the top of each hierarchy, of each world tradition, each of whom symbolize this transformative power that is latent in the mind of every one of us, the power that we have to cultivate and develop.
The seed for that development is the Buddha-nature (buddhata, tathagatagarbha) and that is the embryo of consciousness that we have; it is quite small. But unfortunately, the quantity of consciousness that we have is in trouble, because we have not managed it well up to now. As an energy, it has consequences, it has results. Energy provokes reactions; this is a fundamental law of existence: for every action there is a consequence.
The human machine is a transformer of energy. In Gnosis, we study this human machine as having three brains, which can be further disarranged as five centres, but for simplicity's sake we talk about three brains. These three brains transform energy, which is constantly, from moment to moment, being received by us, transformed by us, and directed by our will. And we express our will in our thoughts, in our feelings, and in our actions through our three brains, in other words through our body, speech, and mind. These three ways of transforming energy, of releasing energy, are managed by our own will, but unfortunately our will is mostly trapped in desire: 97% of the consciousness that we have available to us is trapped inside of the ego, inside of pride, lust, envy, gluttony, greed, fear, jealousy. So that is 97% of our true fundamental self embottled in karmic consequences because of past action. This situation has arisen, of course, because of causes and conditions, but the root cause, which precipitates, which perpetuates the continual embottlement of the energy of our consciousness, is our failure to realize that it is our will that directs it, and that will has consequences.
In each moment we are transforming energy and directing energy. Of course this energy is creative: we create with our thoughts, we create with our feelings, and we create in our actions.
Wherever we direct our attention, we expend creative energy. - Samael Aun Weor
The goal of any spiritual path is to learn how to properly manage that energy, to use that energy in the right way, in order to stop trapping the energy in the ego, to cease that bad habit which we are constantly performing. And the way that the practitioner accomplishes that is through what is commonly called ethics, or morality, or discipline. But as you know, there are levels of the teachings.
We have discussed three primary levels:
- the foundational path or the Shravakayana
- the intermediate path or the Mahayana
- the more elevated path, the higher path, the secret path, which is called Mantrayana, Tantrayana, Vajrayana
In each of these levels of development are a certain understanding of ethics, or morality, which are expressed as set-up guidelines for a practitioner to observe in order to stop creating Karma. And this is so that the mind can be stabilized, and in turn that energy can be directed in a healthy way, in a beneficial way.
In the foundational path, the Shravakayana, these types of ethics, or guidelines, pretty much concern themselves with physical action. So when we look at the Ten Commandments, or we look at the Vinaya, which are the rules and guidelines for lay practitioners and monks in the eastern traditions. We see that most of those rules and guidelines relate to how to behave, in other words, "Thou shalt not kill," or you shouldn't lie, or you shouldn't have any sexual misconduct, or you shouldn't drink, or take any intoxicants, you shouldn't steal; these are the types of rules or vows that practitioners take in the foundational path, in the Shravakayana.
In the first phase of learning about ethics as a spiritual practitioner, the concern is for the student to learn how to manage their own activities in relation to themselves, in other words how to adjust our behaviours so that we stop creating Karma for ourselves. This is important because as long as we persist in negative actions, harmful actions, we persist in creating Karma which disturbs the mind, it disturbs our emotions, and thus the mind is out of control; we are buffeted by all kinds of negative energies, and it is very difficult to meditate, it is very difficult to practice, very difficult to comprehend, and it is almost impossible to perform right action, because we persist in harmful action.
When you move into the Greater Vehicle, the focus shifts, so that the practitioner is no longer so much concerned about their own wellbeing, but starts to pay more attention to others, and this is how Bodhichitta is cultivated. The practitioner, recognizing that their own actions produce Karma and produce suffering for themselves, comes to the realization that, "If i am producing suffering for myself, I am also making other people suffer; with my pride, I make people suffer; with my anger, I make people suffer." That realization brings up remorse: we love other people and don't want to hurt them, and so we seek to change those behaviours in order to benefit others; and this is the beginning of developing Bodhichitta.
When you move into the Mantrayana, Tantrayana, or Vajrayana level, the third type of teaching, the focus becomes one hundred percent on others and all self-interest is abandoned. And this is why that teaching is elevated, because to abandon self-interest is not easy, it requires a great deal of training to reach that type of behavior, that type of attitude.
So the paramitas are the attitudes of a person relative to their level. Each level of the teachings will practice the paramitas and learn the paramitas. Generosity in the Shravakayana or foundational level is mostly concerned with generating good merit, to do good acts so that you can benefit yourself, and this is useful and important in its phase. And of course as you advance, that attitude of generosity becomes more and more focused on others, so that by the time the student is working in the higher aspect of the teachings, there is no self-interest: their focus is entirely on the wellbeing of others.
As an expression of that teaching, the Bodhisattva ideal (the Bodhisattva being "the essence of wisdom" who expresses pure Bodhichitta) we have a very important text, which in Sanskrit is called Bodhicharyavatara, and in English it is translated different ways, sometimes "The Way of the Bodhisattva," or "The Way of Life of the Bodhisattva." The author is Shantideva, and it could be said that this text is perhaps the most important text to come out of Asia. It is the most important text of Mahayana or Tantrayana, because it sets the foundation for that entire teaching.
Shantideva, author of Bodhicharyavatara
The text is arranged in ten chapters and the whole book is about Bodhichitta, its value, its importance, and the practical methods through which you can generate Bodhichitta, protect Bodhichitta, and teach Bodhichitta.
The first three chapters of the book are concerned with the explanation of what Bodhichitta is and how valuable it is. So these first three chapters could be said to be about the generation of Bodhichitta, what it means to generate Bodhichitta. And in truth, this is generosity, the first paramita, the first attitude, because the basis of Bodhichitta is to be generous towards others, to give up one's own self-interest, "to deny oneself," as Jesus said, and to devote oneself to the wellbeing of others. So the first three chapters are about the first paramita.
The fourth and fifth chapters are about the second paramita, and those chapters can be translated with different titles, usually like "carefulness" or "attentiveness." The second paramita is usually translated as "ethics," or "discipline," or "morality." So let us look at how these terms all interrelate: carefulness, attentiveness, ethics, morality, discipline. The fact that out of ten chapters Shantideva devotes two to this paramita underscores its importance. Discipline, carefulness, attentiveness.
If in the first place to enter into the Bodhisattva path we need to develop Bodhichitta, this is the foundation of the path itself, but once that Bodhichitta is developed and is beginning to grow, we need carefulness, attentiveness, in order to protect it. And this is because we are filled with contradictory forces: our mind is our enemy. That which contradicts Bodhichitta is not outside, it is inside.
In Gnosis, we look at ethics, morality, or guidelines for behavior as having two fundamental aspects, or two divisions you could say, and these are the First Law and the Second Law. A law of course is a guideline, a rule - this is the way we usually think of a law, something that somebody decided and opposes on us, but we are not talking about that kind of law. When we talk about the First Law and the Second Law, we are talking about law in the sense of Dharma. Dharma means "truth, law, a fact," something which IS, so when we discuss the Law, the Cosmic Law, we are not describing some rule that a bearded man in heaven decided on and is demanding of those below him; this is not what we mean by Law. What we mean is, as an example, gravity. In this third dimensional world, gravity is a law, it is a truth, it is a fact. So the First Law and the Second Law are exactly like that: they are truths, facts of reality, facts of existence, but according to certain levels.
The Second Law is the one that most of us know about. The Second Law is inferior to the first. The Second Law is the written law that we have in our religions, such as "Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not fornicate" - these are the written law, the Vinaya, the vows, the commitments, that any religious person adopts based on their teachings and their scriptures and their instructions. These are the Second Law, the inferior law. They are said to be "inferior" because there is a law that transcends them, and that law of course is the First Law, which is related to these upper spheres on the Tree of Life: Kether, Chokmah, Binah.
The First Law is the will of God, the energy of Christ, which is expressing itself from a particular attitude, or paramita.
Looked at in another way, we can say that practitioners who enter into religious studies adopt the Second Law and learn to manage themselves in accordance with the commandments or vows in order to eventually transcend them, so they can receive the First Law, which is the direct instruction of Christ, and at that level, receiving the First Law, they then act in a way that is beyond the Second Law, that is beyond the commandments, beyond the vows.
In order to do that, you have to have the capacity. We are not there yet; we have minds that are afflicted with pride, with desire, with lust, with fear, with anger, and that is why the First Law is not given to us. We have to first develop the capacity to receive it.
For any practitioner to move from the domain of the Second Law, the written law, into the domain of the First Law, they must have a mind that can properly utilize the First Law. That mind has to have two aspects:
- First it needs a receptive quality, the ability to receive the commands of the Innermost, the ability to perceive and understand the light of Christ; in direct experience, not by guessing, but consciously, awake.
- The second aspect is the ability to act on that law in the right way.
So the first requirements is the ability to receive the law, and the second is to act on it in the right way.
You may observe people who call themselves "Bodhisattvas," and who claim to receive divine messages and guidance, and yet their behaviors are harmful to others; this person is deceiving themselves. A true Bodhisattva renounces self-interest and everything they do is focused on the benefit of others: this is the purpose of the First Law. The First Law is the expression of Christ - which is pure love - and the purpose of that law is to benefit other beings at any cost, but according to what is right.
This is a very subtle thing to comprehend deeply, but in synthesis you can say that the mind of the Bodhisattva has to have the capacity to receive that law, and it is only a Bodhisattva who can manifest, incarnate that First Law; only a Bodhisattva can do it. This is the distinction of the Bodhisattva path. Both the Shravakayana students and walkers, and the Pratyeka Buddhas who walk according to the Greater Vehicle (Mahayana or Pratyekayana) still belong in the domain of the Second Law. They may receive some instruction internally, they may receive some guidance, but they cannot incarnate that First Law: only a Bodhisattva can do that. And to do so, the Bodhisattva has to have the Bodhichitta, the mind of awakened wisdom.
That mind of Bodhichitta has to be calm, stable, clear and receptive in order to take those instructions, the guidance that comes from the light, and act upon it on behalf of others. Therefore, the path to become a Bodhisattva is a path of mind training.
The Bodhisattva path is not a path that is concerned with external appearances: it is a path that is concerned entirely with the mind. So for the walker of the real Bodhisattva path (not merely the aspirational path, but the actual path) ethics, discipline, morality, carefulness, attentiveness do not relate to external things. When we are talking about the Bodhisattva path, everything relates to the mind, our own mind. Those people who are studying the foundational levels of the teaching, or the intermediate levels, learn to practice ethics, or morality, based on external factors. The Bodhisattva has to learn to practice ethics, morality and discipline based on internal factors, the mind itself. So the attention has to shift from outside to inside.
In order to accomplish that shift of attention, things may start to sound a little contradictory. The Bodhisattva's focus is on the benefit of others. A Bodhisattva recognizes that the cause of suffering is self-interest. All suffering is produced by self-interest, and the Bodhisattva recognizes that happiness is generated by compassion, by helping others, so this person has to renounce self-interest and dedicate themselves to others. This does not mean that the Bodhisattva fails to take care of themselves, or that the Bodhisattva fails to feed themselves, or clothe themselves, or act like a crazy person, no; nor does it mean that the Bodhisattva will simply lie down and accept any kind of abuse, it doesn't mean that either; do not let your mind go to extremes. The nature of the Bodhisattva's mind, Bodhichitta, is to help others in the most effective way possible. Therefore, the vehicle, the Bodhisattva itself, must be healthy, stable, calm, clear. Only from a strong foundation can you help someone else. So naturally, a Bodhisattva needs a healthy and sound mind, a healthy and sound body, and a foundation from which they can work.
They need self-confidence, but real self-confidence, not pride. There is a big difference between pride and dignity. Dignity is a conscious value, it is a form of self-respect that is not rooted in desire or ego, it is rooted in the consciousness, which recognizes the inherent value of any thing. In the same way that we respect others because they have divinity within them, they have good qualities within them, even if they have defects, so we should also respect ourselves. Even if we have problems and defects, we do have the qualities, we too have our own divinity. And this is a form of dignity, a form of respect. And this is important for any practitioner to have, but it is especially important for a Bodhisattva.
Bodhichitta is this kind of mind that the Bodhisattva has to perfect, and the means to arrive at that is through a particular form of discipline. You can call it "self-discipline," but it isn't discipline in the way we usually think of it. We have grown up with this idea of discipline as being rules that restrict our behavior.
Many people reject religion, because they believe it is too restrictive; they want "freedom," as they call it. But let us analyze what freedom is. Are you really free? Are you really free to do what you will, what you want? If you are sincere with yourself, you will probably discover that you are not, even if you are fabulously wealthy. And this is because real freedom is not based in external circumstances, it is based in a quality of mind.
When you are angry, you are constricted. When the passion of anger envelops you, you suffer, as if in a cage; the anger is painful and drives you to harm. This is not freedom, this is imprisonment within the mind. This is what we mean when we talk about our consciousness being bottled in the ego.
What about fear? When fear grips you, what freedom do you have? When fear has enveloped you in its atmosphere, your every thought, your every emotion, and your every impulse to act will be driven by that fear, therefore, where is your will, where is your freedom? Observe yourself and discover these facts in your own life.
What about gluttony? What about greed or envy? Can you say that you are free from envy? If you observe the things that you have tried to grasp in your life, how many of them become attractive to you because someone else has it? Because someone else has that, we want it. And then we spend our energy, we spend our time, trying to get whatever that thing is. And what freedom is there in that?
What freedom is there when our life is lived like we are in a cage, like a rat running after a bit of cheese, such as a house, or some savings, or a car, or a degree; because people told us we need it, because we don't feel secure unless we have it? Because we feel afraid, if we don't have savings, because we feel afraid, if we don't have a particular job, or a spouse. Look at how fear, how envy, how pride, condition your will, and then ask yourself, where is your freedom?
And furthermore, ask yourself, all these desires that I have, these cravings, fears, worries, are they all about me or am I concerned with anyone else? Is my attention entirely on myself, on satisfying my own fear, or my own pride, or have I had any thoughts at all of benefiting another person? Be sincere with yourself and discover the quality of your mind. Do not just tell yourself that you are good or bad: OBSERVE yourself and see how you really are.
It is very rare for us to sincerely do something for the benefit of another person. Very rare. And this is why in the Bodhicharyavatara, Shantideva explains that a virtuous thought is as rare as a lightning strike. And this is because our own mind is so trapped in selfish interest, self-desire.
So we clamor about freedom, we go and kill people because of this idea of "freedom," and yet we are all imprisoned inside the cage of our own mind.
The discipline to come out of the cage cannot be imposed upon us by an external source. No person can come to us and say, "Follow all these rules and you will be free." It doesn't work like that. If someone comes to us and says, "The teachings say you must renounce anger, so never be angry." And so then we take this attitude, a discipline upon ourselves, "I will not be angry," so we begin to resist anger. What will happen? What will happen is that we will modify our external behavior, we will act sweet, we will act patient, we will behave as if anger has been vanished, and we may even convince ourselves of it. But at a certain moment, circumstances and Karma will conspire against us, something will happen to make us angry, and then we will explode. This is because the more we reject something, the more we push away, the more we resist it, the less is our understanding. This is especially true of dealing with our own mind. But it is also true of dealing with external things.
People who become fanatics of a political idea, religious idea, or scientific idea, become so attached to that concept, that belief, that they violently reject anything that contradicts it, and in turn they become stupid, they become ignorant, they harm themselves and they harm others. That is a process of imprisoning the mind, caging the mind, in a belief, in a thought, in a concept, or in a way of life. That is not discipline, that is imprisonment.
We may hear about the need to become disciplined practitioners, to have discipline in our Gnostic practice, or in our meditation practice, and we become very inspired and set up for ourselves a rigorous schedule, "I am going to meditate eight hours every day, from now on!!" And if you have done it, know what happens: you might make it through one day. If you have a lot of willpower, you might make it for a week, but within a short period of time, you will completely abandon your efforts at self-discipline. Why? Because you have not understood it.
Real discipline comes from comprehension. In order for us to truly be free of our anger, we have to comprehend that anger, we have to understand it - consciously. When you really and truly comprehend and understand the true nature of anger, you will be free of it, naturally, without the need for any rules, because your own understanding will be there as a flower in your mind, as a form of sweetness, as a form of serenity, that anger cannot penetrate.
Discipline in our Gnostic studies has to be imposed from within, not from without. But for us to develop that kind of discipline we have to understand. Therefore, instructors and teachers of any kind should teach students how to think, not what to think. They should teach how to comprehend, not to just accept a belief, or a theory, or an idea, and then try to live by it, but to comprehend the idea, to understand it in their own flesh, in their own experience.
The way to do that is to teach how to use attention, how to pay attention, how to manage energy, through our will, through our three brains, but consciously, attentively. And if we do that, comprehension arises naturally.
We act out of anger because we don't pay attention to the results, to the consequences, to the experience of anger; instead, we become identified, fascinated. Next time you discover that you are angry, stop, and observe yourself, and look at how painful it is to be angry, but more importantly, look at how it hurts others; look carefully at how your anger hurts people around you, and understand that. And when you do, when you consciously grasp that, what will arise in you is self-discipline, the recognition that "This anger is my enemy, I cannot allow this enemy to live inside of me anymore."
What good can come of anger? What good can anger bring? How can anger ever help someone? It cannot. It can only produce suffering, but you can only know that for yourself: you cannot just believe me; you have to experience it.
So if you take these studies seriously, your own consciousness will show it to you, it is part of the teaching. The way these teachings work is that we are confronted with the qualities of our own mind over and over and over until we get it.
Real discipline is not the resistance of mental states, it is the comprehension of them. So if you have a lot of anger come up, do not avoid it: you have to be in the Tao, in the middle, neither acting on it, nor rejecting it, but simply in the middle, observing, watching yourself, looking closely. This is what is meant by carefulness, by attentiveness.
But this persistent carefulness, attentiveness, has to be active from moment to moment, all the time. We are not talking about observing only extreme mental anguish. There are psychological elements processing in us in every instant, and the majority of them are harmful. In the book The Revolution of the Dialectic, Samael Aun Weor stated, "97% of human thoughts are negative and harmful." Seems like a lot. It is very rare for a virtuous thought to arise, therefore we have to be extremely disciplined in our attention, observing our mind, observing our heart, and observing the impulses to act.
A teacher or a guide, in any Gnostic school or in any religious school, should teach in that way, should teach the student to be self-reliant, not dependent. And unfortunately, this is rare. Most schools or religions want to gather followers, want to make people attached, to make them stay. The Christ does not seek to gain attachment. The Christ is love and wants each one to be himself, to be self-reliant, to be strong, to be independent, to act free of any cage.
Cages are in the mind. A religion can become a cage, a theory, a doctrine, an education, a tradition; these are cages for the mind and they limit our capacity to think intelligently, comprehensively, integrally.
For example, in this school we do not take attendance. We do not put any rules on students, and some people think that is strange. In some schools, you will find a lot of rules, a lot of requirements, such as to go from one level to the next you have to have perfect attendance, so they keep detailed logs. Or you have to perform certain kinds of actions or donate a certain amount of money, or be there a certain period of time; but see, all of these are forces of external discipline, and they generate in the student dependence and fear. Rather than the student becoming inspired to practice the teachings spontaneously because they sincerely recognize the genuine value of it, they come to class because they do not want to be excluded, or they do not want to be exiled, or they do not want to be rejected, or they want to be saved. This is harmful. This does not benefit anyone.
So in this school, as an example, students are free to come and go as they will. We respect the opinion of everyone and the lifestyle of everyone: you are free to do as you wish. For those who have the natural interest, on their own effort, they come because they want it, because they need it, because they see the value; and to those are given extra help. They earn extra help not because of any subjective rules or requirements, but because they need it and they sincerely and spontaneously demonstrate their need. This is a form of freedom that allows a student to develop themselves according to their own will. To impose your will on someone else is called black magic. We have to respect the will of others.
Now again, do not let your mind go to extremes: this does not mean that someone can come into this school and do whatever they want; we have to balance between order and anarchy. Naturally, there are actions which are harmful, and we seek to avoid those. But it is only in the absence of so-called "disciplines," external rules, that real understanding can blossom.
The mind has to be made free of cages, and when a teaching is placing cages on people, it is harming them. You really can see this in a lot of modern religions, which state, "You must abide by these requirements, otherwise you cannot come here." In other words, "You must fit yourself into our mold, otherwise you are will be cast out." No real school or religion seeks to make students into clones or robots: true religion teaches self-reliance, or to say this in a more direct way, reliance on the inner Self.
You may see signs at the door of a church or school that says anyone is welcome, but when you go inside, you discover that if you doubt them, if you ask too many questions, if you don't understand, they will reject you. And this is wrong. Students should be encouraged to understand, and teachers should be patient and resilient in order to explain the teaching as many times as necessary for the benefit of the student.
The first levels of the teachings, the foundational path, the discipline, the ethics, are really about learning how to imitate certain kinds of behavior. In this level of teachings, we learn to imitate our teachers, our guides, in the same way we do when we are children, when we learn to imitate our parents and our teachers. But to go into the Bodhisattva path, imitation has to stop. The Bodhisattva has go beyond imitation and instead learn to direct attention and realize their own unique individuality.
Imitation is related to discipline because we think, "Well, my instructor acts serene, so I should act that way," or "My instructor acts happy, so I should act that way," but this is not sincere. We have to be who we are, and impose upon ourselves our own inner discipline to change our own behaviors, not to just imitate others. And that can only arise if we know how to pay attention.
Attentiveness or carefulness are terms used in Tibetan Buddhism to describe grades of consciousness, how to use consciousness. Carefulness is the initial realm, or environment, within which we become conscious. By being careful, we recognize that our actions produce consequences, and so we know we need to be careful with our energy, not just physically, but in the mind. From that carefulness naturally emerges attentiveness, in other words, we have to pay attention from moment to moment.
In Gnosis, we look at it in the same way, but we combine these things, where in Buddhism they talk about separate elements like carefulness, attentiveness, mindfulness; these are all separate, little components of one activity; in Gnosis we call that one activity Self-observation, and this is consciously directed attention upon our own selves, upon our own mind: not just the body, not just how we sit, not just how we talk, but the quality of our own mind.
And again, avoid extremes. We are not talking only about extreme qualities of mind here: we have to be observing every state of mind that we have. Whatever arises inside of this human machine, we have to observe it.
It is only when we learn to direct attention in this way that we can then start to understand ourselves. If we do not pay attention, we cannot learn anything. Then we go through life mechanically and we keep repeating the same mistakes.
The capacity to change the course of your life starts the instant you pay attention to your life, but with conscious attention. We know how to pay attention in a certain way already, but that attention, our normal form of attention, is mechanical, it is absorbed in this 97% of the ego. We have to train the free 3%, the part that is not conditioned by pride, by desire, by fear. To learn to train that we first have to find it, we have to know where it is in us. And there are few clues to help you discover it.
The first clue is: you have heard of something called "conscience." The conscience is that free portion of our own consciousness, which can distinguish between right and wrong. It is very small, it is very quiet, but if we observe ourselves conscientiously, observing consciously the sense of right and wrong, the feeling in ourselves, then we can start to grasp what is the essence, what is consciousness.
Conscientious observation is only part of it; we also have to remember ourselves. For example, anyone of us has the capacity to sit down and pay perfect attention to a movie for two hours; this is mechanical: that is mechanical attention. Can you do the same thing with meditation? Can you sit for two hours without wavering? Probably not. And this illustrates the difference between the free essence which is small and weak, versus the trapped essence, trapped in desire, in mechanical behaviors.
If you observe someone who is watching a movie, or watching television, they are like a zombie, they are like sleepwalker, so absorbed in the attentive concentration on the images and the story that they have completely forgotten themselves, and this is the cause of suffering. For us to turn that around we need to remember ourselves, we need to not forget that we are here in the body; we must be conscious of being in the body, conscious of our activities, conscious of our thoughts, of our feelings, to be here and now. You can feel it. There is a distinct difference in the quality of your experience of a moment when you are consciously present in yourself. This is what we need to extend, to deepen. We cannot do it if we forget ourselves.
If we are always forgetting ourselves and becoming fascinated with daydreams, with plans, with ideas, with thoughts, or with feelings about the past or the present, future, or with television or movies, or forgetting ourselves in all kinds of activities, being very busy, or being very lazy, we cannot change. The root of change is in self-awareness, self-remembrance from moment to moment. It is in that place, where we have directed our conscious energy into that free essence, the 3%, that we can then turn that force and begin to use it on the 97% to change it, to use the consciousness that we have in order to free the trapped consciousness. This is the basis of discipline.
Without self-observation and self-remembering there can be no change. But even those are not enough. We have to observe our behaviors, our activities, we have to remember ourselves, and then we have to meditate.
During the course of a day, normally, we day dream, we sleep, we are like sleepwalkers, going from event to event in a very mechanical fashion, and the whole time perpetuating our bad habits, mental habits, not just physical, but also mental. This in turn is deepening suffering. By learning to observe ourselves and remember ourselves, to be conscious, present, here and now, we start to gather information, not to judge ourselves, not to resist or reject the negative qualities we see within, but to understand them.
When we see and observe our own lust, don't just run away from that, don't just reject that, but neither should you act on it; you should observe it, you should watch carefully, with great attentiveness, how that lust is demonstrating itself in your three brains, because it will show up as impulses to act physically, it will show up as desires related to emotion, and it will show up as thoughts, and it will change from experience to experience, from moment to moment, and new things will come, new elements will come into play.
You can never rest your attentive discipline. The discipline of our attention has to be continuous, otherwise we will miss important factors and remain in ignorance.
Once some of that information is gathering, we start to see ourselves as we really are. We then need to meditate, and the purpose there is to take that conscious attention, that remembrance of self which is independent of desire, and utilize that in full focus to concentrate on the harmful elements we observed that day. And in that way we can comprehend them, understand them, thereby stripping them of power.
In the same way that we start to really see how our anger is harmful, just in day to day activities, when we start to comprehend how the anger is manifesting in our own mind in more subtle levels of nature, we can start to penetrate into the depths of our own psyche and change it in a deeply fundamental way. But only meditation can give us that ability. But even that is not enough. Comprehension is vital, but we have to eliminate the problem.
The mind cannot eliminate the mind. We need an energy, a force which is superior, an energy or a force which is superior to the three brains, a force which is superior to ourselves, if we really want to change, and that force is Christ. But that energy acts in different ways.
In terms of the elimination of the ego, we need that energy to give us guidance, to help us to see ourselves, and Christ is always there to do that. But we also need to save that energy that is given to us, to save our creative energies and use those energies to change. Remember in the beginning I said whatever we pay attention to, we give energy to. Where we direct our attention, we direct energy. When we observe ourselves and remember ourselves, we are directing energy at ourselves, conscious energy which comes from God, which comes from Christ. But that energy, while it can provide comprehension, it can provide understanding, it needs to be more potent in order to eliminate the problems, and that comes through transmutation, that comes through work with sexual energy.
This is why this part of the teaching has traditionally been withheld and given only in little stages as you advance through the different levels of the path. In the past it was not taught publicly, because energy is powerful. When you direct energy, you are directing forces that can transform. But if your will is trapped in pride, trapped in lust, trapped in self-interest, then you will take those energies and hurt people. And this is why the science of sexual transmutation has always been withheld, because people have not been prepared to receive it, and instead will take that and harm themselves and harm other people.
Times have changed now. We need that force now. There is no other way to transform our 97%, and we are on the precipice of losing the 3%. This is why the teachings have been opened, to give us a chance to change by harnessing that force and directing that energy consciously, to dominate the mind.
In the West, we often think of the mind as a donkey. And this is in the Gospels: the mind is symbolized as a donkey, and Jesus rides the donkey into Jerusalem; this is a symbol of the need to dominate the mind. In the Eastern traditions, you find different animals symbolize the mind, but the one I find most compelling is the elephant. This is because in the West we tend to ridicule donkeys, we think of them as stupid and stubborn (they are really not, if you work with them well; a donkey is a very valuable animal to have). But we tend to think of elephants as magnificent, very powerful, very intelligent, and they are. But if they are not tamed, they are extremely dangerous.
We do not realize it, but elephants kill a lot of people in the east, because they are very big, they are very powerful, and if they are not tamed well, they are very, very dangerous. But if an elephant is tamed, if it is worked with in the right way, it gives incredible power to the handler. The mind is like that. The mind is very magnificent in its power, in its capabilities, but we have not tamed it: our own mind is completely out of control. We let our mind do whatever it wants. From moment to moment, our mind is constantly running from one thing to another thing, always associating, different ideas, memories, images, desires, day dreams, without any control whatsoever. And this is why our life is a mess.
We think our life is a mess because of external factors, because our boss didn't like us, we didn't get the raise or we got fired, or because the people at our job are all against us, they are jealous of us, or they are envious of us, or they are all fighting to get us out of there, or our family, our family doesn't understand us, they don't respect us ... we always think our suffering is due to external causes, but it is not. Whatever you are, whatever you experience, has been created by your own hands.
The Dalai Lama gives a very funny example of this, he says, "People in the west always complain and think that they are too fat," and he starts laughing and he says, "but what they don't realize is that they made themselves fat! So who they are complaining about? Themselves, but they don't want to take responsibility."
We are like that. We want somebody else to fix our problems, we want to blame somebody else for our problems, and fail to realize that we are the source of every experience we have.
Bodhichitta, in its essence, is the ability to take any experience, any experience, and transform it for the benefit of other people. Jesus did that on the cross: he took that suffering, that torture, and was transforming that as an act of pure love. There was no self-interest in his actions.
We cannot even bear a little snide comment from another person, or criticism, or sarcasm. We cannot even bear to pay a little fee or a little fine, or to buy somebody lunch, so strong is our self-interest.
The force to change comes from within. This force has to be looked at as assisting us through three primary aspects. Obviously we need the foundation that I have described, to observe ourselves, to remember ourselves, to watch, to meditate, to transform our experience from moment to moment. The foundation of this type of change has three primary aspects which we have talked about. These are the three factors:
And these three factors are taught in Buddhism in exactly the same way.
- The first factor, death, is to restrain negative action, harmful action, that means to restrain the mind, to gain control of the elephant
- The second, birth, is to generate good action, helpful action, virtuous action
- The third is to benefit others
The order of these three is very important. They are given in this order for a particular reason. The whole basis of the Bodhisattva path is to benefit other people, therefore this third factor sacrifice is the purpose, the point. But to do that, to really sacrifice for others, we have to know how to do it, we have to know how to perform the virtuous actions of the second factor. But we cannot perform virtuous action if opposing factors override our virtue. In other words, the ego has to die first.
The way we are now with 97% of our consciousness trapped, we are very limited in our ability to help others, because most of our activities come from self-interest. Even when we want to do a good act, we corrupt it; we may not corrupt it physically, but we will definitely corrupt it in the mind.
For example, we may have heard these lectures and understood that generosity is a very important factor, to sacrifice for others is very important, so we decide to give a donation, but we know that we should not take credit, so we decide to give the donation anonymously, but in our mind we praise ourselves; in that way, we corrupted the action. Just the thought is a little corruption of the act. It does not invalidate the act, the act still has value, but it would be worth more if it were completely pure. So what could be said of us if we give a donation and does not claim benefit, but work in a manipulative way to make sure that by some means that the pastor or the priest of the temple finds out that we gave the money? We may work in a sneaky way because we want him to know, "It was me, I gave that money." We don't tell him directly, we do it through another sneaky way; that happens all the time. And unfortunately this kind of pattern corrupts the action.
So for us to really perform action to benefit others, of course, we need to know how to do it (which is the second factor), but for us to do it purely, the opposing factors within us need to be removed: it means the ego has to die.
This is emphasized in all the books of Samael Aun Weor: the death of the ego, over and over and over he emphasizes that the "I" must die. And it is because he knows: you may have all the intentions in the world to do good, but if your ego is still alive, your actions will be corrupted. Therefore, kill the ego, kill the "I," and if that "I" is no longer there, then your actions will be pure. Very simple. And this is why the focus on death is so pronounced in our tradition; mystical death, psychological death. And naturally this is symbolized in all the initiatic stories about the path of the Bodhisattva, with beheadings, crucifixions, people being burned at the stake, people being murdered; these are symbolic of the psychological death that we have to pass through in levels.
So in synthesis, the Bodhisattva learns to be perfect in all three of these factors, to have died completely, to have given birth completely, and to sacrifice completely, perfectly. And this is a process that is arrived at through ordeals, through suffering, through comprehension.
But the activities of the Bodhisattva are very controversial. As a disciple of the First Law, the Bodhisattva receives instructions which transcend the Second Law. A Bodhisattva receives commands and instructions directly from the source of the light. That law, that light, is not subject to the Second Law, in other words, God is not subject to the Ten Commandments. This is why God can kill. God does things that appear to contradict the law, and this is why people always say, "Oh, the bible is full of contradictions. The scriptures are full of contradictions. Why did Master so and so commit this act? How can the Gnostics say that Joan of Arc was a great Bodhisattva when she killed lots of people? Or Mohammed, or David, or Solomon?" Even the Dalai Lamas waged war in the early days. Most people in the West don't realize that. The early Dalai Lamas led battles, killed, and these were practitioners of the First Law. So how is that? How can they do actions that contradict the law that most of us know?
This is also well illustrated in the Gospels, in the conflict between Jesus (who symbolizes the Bodhisattva) and the Pharisees and Scribes. The Pharisees and Scribes are always watching for the contradictions of the actions of Jesus and his disciples. "You should not do this on the Sabbath day," "You have done this and that which is against the law of Moses," etc. And this is because there is a difference between walkers of the First Law and walkers of the Second Law; we must not confuse them.
The difference, unfortunately, is sometimes misconstrued. People who believe that discipline, or ethics, or morality is limited to physical action become very attached to their tradition, to their interpretation of the law, and they begin to judge, they see someone who is doing an action that appears to contradict that written law, and they judge them. Jesus in the Gospels is very firm about this. Remember the beautiful story of the adulteress.
And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. - John 8:3-11
Of course no one is without sin, therefore no one has the right to judge, but this is especially true when we are dealing with the nature of a Bodhisattva. A bodhisattva does not condemn or judge: his concern is to help people come out of ignorance of the Law.
Do not mistake the transcendence of the Second Law as the right to be able to do whatever you want, because that is not what it means. Some people hear about this distinction between the Second and First Law and think, "Well, if I am in the Second Law and I have to abide by all these rules (don't fornicate, don't commit adultery, don't kill, don't steal, don't lie, all these things) it sounds great to go to the First Law, then I can do whatever I want." That is not the meaning at all.
Someone who has earned the right to receive the commands of the First Law directly, is someone who is serving their Being, their own Inner Buddha, their own Inner Christ, and the purpose of that Inner Christ is to serve others, is to help humanity. So then it would be easy to say, "Well, that sounds terrible, it does not sound like any freedom at all to be a servant." The truth is actually the opposite. This is how the mind tricks us.
We do not have any freedom now, but when the mind is freed of ego, it is completely free in its movement, it becomes pure joy, pure happiness, outside the bonds of any restriction, terrestrial or otherworldly. And you can see that in the beauty of the actions of Bodhisattvas, if you can comprehend them. The walker of the Bodhisattva path is very difficult for people to comprehend, because their actions appear to be so contradictory.
In the time of the life of Jesus of Nazareth many people hated him, because he contradicted their traditions, their attachments, their assumptions, their power; afterwards there were various groups that were called Gnostic, who are actually the real Christians, who inherited the doctrine of Jesus and taught that doctrine, and they were hated for precisely the same reason: because they taught self-reliance, they taught that any person can realize their own true nature and they do not need a religion, they do not need a priest, they do not need these structures to do it; it is not to say that those structures are useless, they are useful, but they should not be tyrannical. And so those groups were persecuted and killed.
The same is true of other great teachers throughout history. Bodhisattvas come to offer their teachings, and humanity is generally scandalized, shocked, outraged, offended, because to completely emancipate the mind contradicts what our entire culture tells us every day.
We have grown up having a kind of training that tells us that happiness is found when we have a certain level of income, when people respect us because we have money, or we have power, or we are a doctor or lawyer or politician; we think that is going to be happiness. And that is an illusion.
Real happiness is an emancipated mind that comprehends compassion and inherent Emptiness. A very useful thing, as you proceed to comprehend this teaching, when you find that you are suffering, you are struggling in life, look inside yourself, and abandon the habit of trying to change your circumstances. Abandon the habit of trying to overcome your external enemies. You might overcome one, but a new one will appear. Enter instead inside: conquer your enemy inside. If you conquer that enemy, your external enemies will disappear naturally.
A good way to do that is to always question, "Who is suffering?" Not outside, in yourself.
If you find yourself in a situation where your blood is boiling, or you feel so constricted with fear, with doubt, anxiety, remember yourself: you have divinity inside, but in those moments you have forgotten it. Remember that divinity is always with you; act like it.
If you watch yourself and you see how when you go to work you behave one way, and then when you go with your friends you behave another way, and you go to a club and you behave another way, or you hang out with your parents and you behave a certain way, or then you go to school, or the temple, or your church, and you behave a total different way, this is very insincere. To have these different modes of behavior is very insincere. We should always behave as if we are in the presence of God, because we are, no matter where you are or what you are doing, your own inner divinity is there, so do not excuse your behavior.
I am not telling you this to impose an external discipline on you, I am telling this to you so that you will question your behavior, and endeavor to change it.
In those instants when you find yourself behaving in these contradictory ways, insincere ways, harmful ways, it is very good to ask yourself:
Who is this?
Who is it that, when I go out with my friends, wants to act so sarcastic, so goofy?
Who is it in me that wants to gossip, to talk about other people, to hear all the news about other people?
Who is it in me that wants to criticize?
Who is it in me that feels hurt because of the criticism other people have said?
Who is it in me that is afraid of being poor, afraid of being fired, afraid of being a failure?
These are all cages for the mind. But what is very interesting is they are all illusions, all of them.
We talk about the ego, we talk about pride, we talk about vanity, and fear, and resentment, and lust, as if they are actual entities, actual things; and in a certain level they are, because we can experience their results, we can experience their effects, but in their base they are not real. There is no true "I" there.
You find yourself in a given situation: observe that situation as you observe yourself. Where is that I who feels betrayed, who feels hurt? Where is it? Is that I in the person who said those words? Is it in the circumstances? Is it in the thought, is it in the feeling, is it in the sensation? It is not in any of those places, so where is it?
That experience is only there because of a particular combination of causes and conditions, and because we allow it. If we remove one piece of that puzzle, the whole thing will vanish.
The piece that is most potent is identification. If you remove your own identification from that situation, your own fascination with what is happening, the whole thing dissolves, vanishes as if by magic.
I am not explaining something theoretical to you: this is factual, this is experience-able. You can experience this, but only by will.
If you are in a situation where you feel very afraid, and you are are feeling the constrictions of fear on your three brains, and you feel that discomfort, pay attention to that, observe that, notice it, neither accepting nor rejecting, observing, yet, separate yourself.
People become very confused on this point; you have to practice it to understand it. To separate yourself means to not identify, to simply observe, to analyze as if you were separate from that situation, separate from those feelings, separate from those sensations, as if you were someone else and you are watching an actor. That actor is you, but inside of that actor is the real you, which is the consciousness. We need to extract it, to separate it.
If you are continuing to feel the constriction of the fear, you are still identified.
It can be very helpful to apply an antidote. Notice how I am saying this: apply an antidote, don't run away, don't resist, don't reject, and don't act on it either, don't fall into these extreme views, but you can apply an antidote.
The best antidote for fear is self-remembrance. If you remember God, if you remember your divinity, truly, and you feel it, fear cannot be there. Where God is there is no fear. To put it in Buddhist terms, if you are in the clear light of the mind, in the Rigpa, there is no fear. The natural state of the mind is perfect serenity, perfect peacefulness, perfect happiness. There is no fear there. That clear awareness is there in each moment, if you access it. It is always present so long as you have a percentage of consciousness free of the ego. But you have to activate that, to use it, no one can tell you exactly how to do it, because it is something you experience in yourself, you have to develop that skill on your own, to learn what it means, to keep trying.
In each circumstance, learn to separate and enter separation inside yourself, watching yourself as though you are an actor, with serenity, with detachment. See yourself as an illusion; this is very powerful, especially when suffering is intense.
You will be amazed at the moment when it clicks in your understanding and you pass through that doorway: on one side of the door you have intense suffering, intense emotional anguish, mental anguish, physical discomfort, because of some situation in your life, and in the instant you realize that all you have to do is change your attitude, you pass through a doorway and feel peace, you feel serene, the problem vanishes as if by magic.
No external discipline can give you that, no external force, no person, no Buddha, no teacher, no master can give you that, only YOU can.
This is the door to enter into the vertical path, to awaken the consciousness by separating from that false I.
This is why the Buddha taught there is no I. In this way we can understand the teaching that there is no self. These experiences that we have from moment to moment are illusions, and they persist because we believe in them. When we extract the consciousness and see it from a distance, the illusion is revealed, it is then that we can penetrate into reality, into the truth. It is in that way that we transcend good and evil.
The Bodhisattva is on a path to go beyond good and evil. Jesus was beyond good and evil, Padmasambhava was beyond good and evil, God is beyond good and evil, Christ ... beyond.
And this is why the Pratyeka Buddhas, the Devas, the Gods, do not understand the Bodhisattvas. The Gods are attached to good. The demons are attached to evil. The Bodhisattvas are not to attached to anything, even to themselves. This may be difficult to comprehend, but even the Bodhisattva renounces "sattva," goodness, in order to enter the Absolute.
To go beyond good and evil is not something in the intellect, it is a conscious development of Bodhichitta. But it is good for us to begin to comprehend it now.
This duality of good and evil is a great illusion in life. We think some people are good and some are evil, some teachings are good and some are evil, but this is not true. Master Samael Aun Weor taught repeatedly that in everything good there is something evil and in everything evil there is something good. Even the Saints have some evilness in them until they are completely liberated from good and evil. Even the demons have some goodness still in them, because they are products of God, they are children of God, but fallen.
This is why a Gnostic rejects "golden rules," ethics, morality, these sort of structures or concepts of how we should behave. A Bodhisattva has to go far beyond any kind of golden maxim that says, "do this, do that."
The true Bodhisattva develops the Bodhichitta to such a degree that there is not even the thought of "do this" or "do that" - there is simply action, to be, action as an expression of Christ which is beyond good and evil. This is how we can begin to understand how Bodhisattvas perform actions that appear contradictory. Therefore we should not judge. The only one we should judge is our own ego.
Do you have any questions?
Question: Would a Bodhisattva manipulate an ego to help someone?
Answer: The sole intention of a Bodhisattva is to help others by whatever means are appropriate. Understand that a real Bodhisattva knows how to act from moment to moment. In a certain moment, an action could be right, and in the next moment it could be wrong.
The Bodhisattva and the Bodhichitta in its essence is manifest in two ways, method and wisdom, which we talked about previously. Wisdom of course is Christ, the understanding of Emptiness. Method is how you act, how you behave. But skilful means, the way to act skillfully, is not definable in some kind of blanket statement. There may be cases where a Bodhisattva can manipulate an ego in order to help someone and that could be correct to do so, and there could be other cases where it is wrong. So you can't say definitively one way or the other.
The driving factor there is knowing how to help. The Bodhisattva must have the Bodhichitta very clear, very stable, very serene, in order to perform actions that otherwise could be harmful.
There are moments in our lives when if we would have received this teaching too soon it could traumatize us. The mind has to be prepared to receive this kind of knowledge, because it is very potent. If the mind is not prepared, a person can be disjointed, can be traumatized, can be harmed; so a teacher has to know how to teach. In the same way the teacher has to know how to work with other people.
Personally, I don't think any teacher, if we are going to limit the conversation to teachers, I don't think any teacher has the right to interfere with the lives of other people. For example, to manipulate other people's egos, supposedly to help them, I would consider that to be harmful, I don't consider that a Master would do that. What a Master could do, is help you to see that ego, but not in a harmful way, but in a way you can understand it. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in this world who think that they are "Masters," and who think that they can manipulate the egos of others to help them, but they are actually hurting people. It is important for us to be very, very careful. We are not Masters, we shouldn't try to behave like them, we have to be who we are: we are bugs, insects, most of us are. We should not act like something we are not, especially when it concerns the welfare of other people.
In Tibetan Buddhism there are a variety of ways to look at the actions of a Bodhisattva. There is a text in particular that gives an outline of eleven ways to benefit beings. If you study that text you will discover that being a manipulator is not on there. So I can't imagine that there would be cases where manipulation is a good thing, there might be, I am ignorant, but I wouldn't think so.
Anyway, it is arrogant for any teacher to think they have the right to manipulate or play with the egos of others. Each student has their own inner psychological trainer who will take care of that. Teachers who play Lucifer are just asking for trouble.
Question: Can a Bodhisattva have a certain level of mythomania or any Master? Being a Master has mythomania in the mind?
Answer: Any being who has the ego alive has mythomania, has pride, to some degree. The question is can a Bodhisattva have mythomania to some percentage? Of course. Mythomania in Gnosis is that quality of believing oneself to be a great Master, and this is very harmful. We address it in detail in Gnosis, particularly in this day and age, because the depth and strength of the ego is very profound, and the ego loves to dress itself like a Saint, the ego loves to be admired. And this is why it is so important for students to be well informed, to study the teachings in depth, to not be restricted to only studying certain parts of the teaching. Students should be invited to study the entire doctrine, so that they are well educated for their own benefit, so they can know how to deal with their instructors and each other.
Any Bodhisattva who is working in the levels in the path towards complete liberation still has ego. As long as that Bodhisattva is not resurrected yet, the ego is still alive. We should respect those people, because the work they are doing is very difficult. But we should not submit our will to theirs. We should be self-reliant. We are responsible for our own liberation. We cannot rely on anyone. We cannot rely on any external factor, but only on our own development. So in that sense, it is irrelevant whether your instructor has an ego or not, or whether they are very mythomaniac or not: what matters is you. If they are a mythomaniac, if they are filled with themselves and in love with themselves, let them be. If it is harmful for you to be there, leave. Do not try to change other people, change yourself. Leave each person to manage their own business.
In this teaching we talk a lot about the Bodhisattva ideal, which is to help others. But you cannot save someone else if you are drowning. You cannot help someone until you know how to help yourself. And this is why these three factors are so important. To sacrifice for others, to assist others, is really to offer them what you yourself know, what you yourself can give them from your own experience, because you know it, it is truth, it is Dharma. If you do not know, then how can you help them? If your own mind is undisciplined, how can you discipline someone else's? You cannot. So if you see students who are having a hard time, people who are having a hard time, instructors having a hard time, help them as you can, but with a limit, understanding that you have limitations, you have ego, you have to first get yourself out of the river to have a stable, strong mind; then you can help.