This is a transcription of the audio lecture Path of the Bodhisattva 05 The Perfections (Paramitas) originally given live on Gnostic Radio, which you can download for free.
To continue with our examination of the Path of the Bodhisattva, it is good for us to refresh our understanding of what a Bodhisattva is. The term is Sanskrit. Bodhi means "awakened," "awakening" or "wisdom." Sattva is "the essence of" or "a vehicle for." So in synthesis we say that a Bodhisattva is "a vehicle of wisdom," or "the essence of wisdom." When we relate these teachings to the Tree of Life (also known as the Kabbalah) we know that wisdom in Hebrew is "Chokmah" (which is the second sphere on the Tree of Life). And so a Bodhisattva, properly speaking, is a vehicle of that light.
A vehicle is a kind of technology, or a mechanism, a means to transmit something, to transport, to carry. The Bodhisattva ideal is expressed in the selfless intention to carry beings to liberation, to be a vehicle for the wisdom, the Bodhi, which liberates the consciousness from suffering. As such, the Bodhisattva is merely an intercessor.
This becomes particularly vibrant the more you comprehend the true nature of our inner self. In Gnosis, we always study the teachings from the point of view of the Absolute: the Emptiness (the Ain, the Ain Soph, the Ain Soph Aur), the vast Absolute Abstract Space, which is an eternal Nothingness, but is Something. It is Uncreated Light. In its very essence it is the nature of self, but it is not self. It is the essence of Being, but it is not Being. When a Bodhisattva becomes perfected, the Bodhisattva becomes a vehicle of That.
Prajnaparamita: the Perfection of Transcendent Wisdom
Those Bodhisattvas who are aspiring to become perfected have to work in order to cleanse themselves of obscurations to that light, so that they can become more perfect vehicles - more perfect means through which that light can express - and in turn, beings can be liberated from suffering. This is why when we study Bodhichitta, which is the awakened mind, the awakening consciousness (or the Auric Embryo within which the Bodhisattva is formed).
It is important for us to always remember that Bodhichitta is the union of two fundamental aspects. We cannot say that Bodhichitta is simply compassion; this is inaccurate. Compassion is only one aspect of Bodhichitta. Full and complete Bodhichitta is the union of compassion and the comprehension of the Absolute. In other words, a perfected Bodhisattva, someone who has become a perfect expression of Bodhichitta, has two fundamental aspects as the nature of their mind. The first is loving kindness for all existing creatures, and the second is the comprehension of the Emptiness of self-nature, or the inherent Emptiness of existence. These two components are indivisible. So when you study compassion, you must always bear in mind that real compassion is born out of this understanding of Emptiness, of the Absolute. The combination is perfect Bodhichitta.
For our minds, this is difficult to grasp, and that is why there is a path for us to ascend. The path that we are studying in this course is related specifically to the path that a Bodhisattva follows. It is important to bear that in mind, because many of the psychological aspects that we will discuss in this course relate to lower or more introductory forms of teaching. But the specifics, the structures, the details of what this course examines, are all related specifically to Bodhisattvas.
As a vehicle, as a means through which light or wisdom is transmitted, we need to look at how that light shines from a Bodhisattva. This is not just an allegory.
Transformation of Energy
We as a human person are a transformer of energy. We have a physical body, which as you know is always transforming matter and energy in order to sustain itself, and on the Tree of Life the physical body can be represented in the bottom sphere on that Tree, which is called Malkuth (which means "the Kingdom").
The function of the physical body is made possible only because it has within it a Vital Body, an Ethereal Body (which in Hebrew is called Yesod, and this is the Ninth Sphere). In other words, all the functions and activities of the physical body are made possible by means of this Vital Body: the Body of Energy (what in Tibetan Buddhism is called "the Subtle Body" or lus phra-mo). In other words, these really are two aspects of one thing, because without a Vital Body there can be no physical body. It would be dead. And the Vital Body cannot be sustained on it's own. It is intimately related to the physical body.
But from the point of view of physical matter, we cannot perceive this Vital Body directly because it is in the Fourth Dimension. We can perceive its activities indirectly with physical senses, because we can see that we have the capacity to digest. We have energies that move through the body in the form of electricity, all the forms of metabolism, etc. All of these functions are made possible because of the existence of the Vital Body, the body of energy.
Beyond this we have additional components that give us the capacity to interrelate, which give us the capacity to exchange energy.
We know that we have feelings. We have emotion. When we experience emotion or feelings physically, that energy is manifesting in our field of perception through our Emotional Center, related to the heart. But its source is deeper than that. It is in a more subtle level of matter, which we call the Astral World (which is related to the Fifth Dimension), and this is the sphere of Hod on the Tree of Life.
This is called by some "the Astral Body" or the "dream body." It is not the true Astral Body; it is rather a shadow. But it is the Emotional Body, and through this form of matter, the energy of emotions arises. It passes into us physically, and then we experience the sensations of emotion, feelings of like and dislike, feelings of antipathy or love. All those feelings, those emotional sensations, arrive because they have their root in the Astral Body (or rather the Body of Emotion: the Kama rupa), but you see if you look at the Tree of Life, between the Astral and the physical aspect, there is the Vital.
The Vital Body is performing an important task here, which we are going to cover in detail in just a few moments.
Next to the Astral Body, or the Body of Desires, we have the Mental Body (the sphere of Netzach), and this is normally what we think of as the mind or the source of thoughts, the source of the Intellect. This also exists in the Fifth Dimension, and is easily confused with this Astral counterpart.
When we dream, we experience these realms in the Fifth Dimension. This is how we personally can taste the qualities of our own subtle bodies: by the quality of our dreams.
And then beyond this Mental Body we have the source of Will, which ultimately (through advancing on the path) becomes the Causal Body, and this is related to the sphere of Tiphereth.
As you remember from previous lectures, when any Initiate has raised the Kundalini throughout these five bodies (from the physical up to the Causal), they can then make the choice to become a Bodhisattva.
So these five bodies are very important for us to understand in order to grasp what a Bodhisattva is, and also for us to understand what we are. In their combination, these five psychological and material aspects form what we can call our mind. These are what we can call our psyche. They are all forms of energy, and they are all forms of matter, but not limited to third-dimensional matter. The physical body has both its material and energetic aspect, and so does the Vital Body, the Body of Desires, the Body of the Mind, and the Body of Will. Each of these has matter in their level, and each of these has energy.
In Hebrew, this Ninth Sphere related to the Vital Body is called Yesod, and that term means "Foundation." In the entire process of the development of the Human Being, we need a foundation to build upon. The foundation that we find is precisely the Ninth Sphere. This is the foundation stone that our own psychological temple is built upon. It is the quality of this vital energy that determines the quality of our building. If you build something with a weak foundation, with an unstable foundation, with a corrupted or impure foundation, that building will not stand, and this is why in the Gospels the Master Jesus gave the beautiful example that we have to build our temple on the rock - not on sand, not on loose earth.
The rock that he is referring to is sexual. And the Vital Body is related directly with sexuality. When we observe the Tree of Life superimposed over the body of any person, we see that Yesod, the Ninth Sphere, is related with the sexual organs.
The Vital Body, related to this sphere of Yesod, can be examined in detail and is seen to have four fundamental aspects. These are called the Four Ethers.
The first two, which are the lower two, are the Chemical Ether and the Ether of Life. By Ether we are talking about levels of energy, certain vibrations or wavelengths of energy. The Ether of Life is the energetic force within us related to reproduction. It is the sexual energy. The Chemical Ether is that energetic force that provides our capacity to digest, to transform energies, foods and fuels related to the physical body, but also related to the mind.
The two superior Ethers are called Luminous and Reflective. These two are related to how we transform impressions. The Luminous Ether is related with our ability to perceive; the word luminous relates to light. Therefore, within the very nature of our Vital Body is the means by which we have perception, but this perception is not limited to physical senses. It includes them, but it goes well beyond them.
The other superior Ether is the Reflective Ether, and a reflective surface is something that reflects light. It is related to the Luminous Ether, but reflective in this sense refers to the capacity of Imagination, the capacity of Clairvoyance. These are forms of perception that are more refined, more subtle - also more penetrating.
These Four Ethers in their combination constitute the Vital Body, and it is these Four Ethers that give us the ability to act physically. It is through the Ethereal Body, this Vital Body (the Four Ethers) that our own thoughts, feelings, and will interrelate with our physical existence. If you look at the Tree of Life you see that the three spheres above (related to Will, Mind, and Emotion) pass in and out of this Ethereal Body to the physical body.
Physically, we study our Three Brains: Intellect, Emotion, Motor-Instinctive-Sexual, but these Three Brains are just machines that receive and transmit forces, and they are connected to these three internal aspects related to these three spheres of Will, Thought, and Emotion. The Three Brains have aspects related to all the bodies, but fundamentally we need to study them here, physically, because here is where we have the little bit of consciousness that we do have.
That is why we emphasize the need for Self-observation. Through Self-observation we observe our Three Brains. We observe our thoughts. We observe our feelings, our emotions, and we observe the sensations that arise in us in our Motor, Instinctive and Sexual Centers.
The reason we observe them is to study our own mind, because our mind is putting those impulses into the Three Brains. Those impulses are coming into the Three Brains because those impulses are arising in our own internal subtle psychology, which is these three bodies that we are discussing, these three spheres.
The reason this is important for us to understand is that the Bodhichitta is elaborated in this world. The Bodhichitta is the awakening mind. It is an Ethereal Auric Embryo. The Master Samael Aun Weor stated that the perfected Bodhichitta is the Ethereal Body. Why? This is because the Ethereal Body plays a vital role in the management of energy. It is the Body of Energy. It is that means by which impressions are received and transformed, because we have our perception, our sexual forces, and our caloric and chemical forces all within this Ethereal Body.
Now from this point of view you can understand why it is so important for us to have a clean mind, to acquire chastity. If our own energetic body is impure, if this foundation (the Vital Body) is corrupt with desire, then Bodhichitta cannot be perfected. Our own awakening mind cannot be perfected and elaborated to the infinite degree so long as we continue to harbor anger, lust, fear, pride, greed, etc. The process of arriving at a perfected Ethereal Body-and therefore Bodhichitta-is Initiatic.
The way we can arrive at having confidence in this path is to maintain our own development of Bodhichitta, and always study Bodhichitta, which has these two aspects: compassion and comprehension of Emptiness.
Looked at from another angle, we can say that the Bodhisattva is the one whose Will (which is Tiphereth, the Causal Body) has been united perfectly with the divine, with the will of God (in other words, with the Emptiness, the Void, the Absolute).
That union, if you look at the Tree of Life, happens in the central column of the Tree. At the bottom of that column we have the physical body, and immediately above it we have this Vital Body, and the next one up is Tiphereth, the Body of Will. So you see that between our physical actions and our Will is this Vital Body - in other words, the vehicle of sexuality and perception, which can eventually become the perfected Bodhichitta. The Vital Body, the Ethereal Body, has to be perfectly cleansed in order to receive and understand Conscious Will and act on it, but immediately above that Will (Tiphereth) is the sphere of Daath, which is the Tree of Knowledge (which, again, is sexual). And immediately beyond that is Kether (the Crown), which is the First Manifestation of the Absolute (the Dharmakaya, in other words).
So in this central column we also see a profound relationship: an energetic relationship, a psychological relationship. For us as a physical person to become united with Dharmakaya, with Kether, we have to work with the forces of the Ethereal Body (in Yesod) and the forces of Will (in Tiphereth). This is the goal of the Bodhisattva: to unite all of these. The perfect union of these aspects is made possible by Bodhichitta. Bodhichitta (the Vital Body) is the door, the foundation. Without Bodhichitta, perfection is unachievable.
To accomplish self-perfection requires a great deal of comprehension of one's self, a lot of understanding about matter and energy. In Buddhism there are a set of principles expressed to help us understand how to arrive at the perfection of Bodhichitta, and in that way we arrive at Buddhahood or absolute liberation. To do that, the Bodhichitta has to become perfect, and as the expression of the divine, it will express that divine perfection, which we always think of as "virtue."
The qualities of the Consciousness that are required in order to merge with divinity are called in Sanskrit "Paramitas." This term Para means "beyond." In its synthesis the word Paramita means, "that which is beyond" or "transcendental." Usually, they are called "the perfections." But in this course, we prefer to call them "conscious attitudes."
The teachings of the Paramitas are very common in all forms of Buddhism-and in fact, they are common in all religions, but organized in slightly different ways. In Buddhism they are usually presented as Six Paramitas, or six qualities that we need.
These six qualities are not simply virtues in the way we think of them. They are rather transcendental. They are beyond common virtues. And the Paramitas in their ultimate expression relate to the three Kayas, the three bodies of the Buddha. In that way we can understand that the Paramitas are beyond Samsara, this world of suffering. They are beyond Nirvana, which is the world of the Gods, and instead the perfection of the Paramitas is in Non-Abiding Nirvana, which is a state of Consciousness that only a Bodhisattva can have.
So this emphasizes that the full development of Paramitas is possible only for those on the Bodhisattva path. To outline them, We will give you the six primary Paramitas that are explained in general.
The first one is Generosity. In Pali or Sanskrit this is called Dana.
The second one is called Ethics, or morality or discipline.
The third is Patience.
The fourth is Diligence.
The fifth is Concentration.
And the sixth is Wisdom.
These are the Six Perfections, the Six Paramitas, and religions teach that it is necessary for us to develop these capacities in order to advance spiritually. But remember, in this course we are talking specifically about the Path of the Bodhisattva. Thus, our emphasis is on the transcendental, or highest aspect of these qualities.
You will discover that these Six Paramitas or Perfections are taught in all the levels of the path, according to the capacities of the instructor and the student. Thus you can examine or investigate how this Paramita of Generosity is taught, and in a school or a teaching related with the Shravakayana (the Foundational Path), Generosity is taught in relation to how we donate, how we have loving-kindness or generosity towards others. We make donations. We try to provide material goods. We try to provide good things to help other people. And the purpose in that practice is to cultivate non-attachment for oneself. This is very important. For the person working in the Foundational Path, it is necessary to cultivate non-attachment in order to comprehend the "I," the ego.
For the religion or the student whose gone a little beyond the Shravakayana and is working in the Mahayana, this capacity of Generosity will be more focused on other people rather than on their own development, so you can see that the way Generosity is taught and explained has become more expanded, more selfless, more focused on self-sacrifice, giving to others because of wanting to benefit others, not so much for oneself. So this will be the second level of this Paramita, the second form of how it is commonly taught.
But we have a third: how this form is taught in relation to the Bodhisattva's path. This is where the really transcendental nature of the Paramita becomes evident. Generosity at this level is a form of consciousness. It is not merely action. It is not merely intention. It is a spontaneous, conscious quality, a quality of mind that has to be perfected. But in a Bodhisattva that quality of mind, Generosity, is one with the understanding of Emptiness. It is a form of Generosity that gives for the benefit of the other person, but with the recognition that neither the giver nor the receiver really exists. And for us, with the quality of mind that we have, this is incomprehensible. But that is the nature of a Paramita in the Bodhisattva's work.
So these Six Paramitas are given in a definitive order. They are all interrelated. They feed and support each other. You cannot separate one out. You cannot rearrange them. These are qualities of consciousness, qualities of mind, and in the Path of the Bodhisattva these six are crucial.
The Three Factors
We can synthesize them and express them in three steps. In Gnosis we always talk about the Three Factors, and Buddhism has the same teaching. Of course, in their hearts, Buddhism and Gnosis are the same religion.
The Buddha taught that the first thing we must do is to avoid harmful action. That harmful action is towards ourselves and others. Related to the Three Factors of Gnosis, we would say this is the factor of Death. To avoid harmful action, our own wrong intentions, our own desires have to die. Those qualities of mind have to die. Otherwise they will continue to stimulate the impulse toward wrong action.
The second step is to cultivate or adopt virtuous action. Instead of following the impulse to behave in the wrong way, we consciously choose to behave in the right way. This is a form of Birth: psychological birth, conscious birth.
And the third is to work for the benefit of others, and this is Sacrifice: sacrifice for others.
These Three Factors are inseparable from one another in the same way that the Paramitas are inseparable. The Paramitas are a more detailed way of looking at the Three Factors, but they are the exact same expression, just in more detail.
But for us to perform this work, to actually achieve the accomplishment of these Three Factors, we have to do it consciously, with conscious will, which means in the precise moment that action is needed. Usually, we mean well, but in the moment we have to act we fail to do what is truly correct. Then later, we may or may not realize it.
It is not sufficient to have good intentions. We have to act the right way in every case. We have to know how to behave and act in the right way in the moment it is needed, and we prepare ourselves to do that by learning about ourselves, learning about what real virtue is.
These Three Factors-Death, Birth, and Sacrifice: avoiding harmful action, adopting virtuous action and working for the benefit of others-are all rooted in the Ethereal Body, the Vital Body, because it is through the vehicle of our Body of Energy that our thoughts, emotions and will interact with our physical body, and through the Vital Body we have perception. Our consciousness, which is really our will, is rooted in Tiphereth, and our consciousness is able to perceive here physically because we have a Vital Body (which is the receiver or transformer of light, of energy) and it delivers those impressions into our mind. If we are not conscious, if we are not paying attention, those impressions are received mechanically by our desires, by our ego, by our pride - that is how we perform wrong action. That is how we hurt other people. That is how we sustain our selfishness: by being asleep.
So the work of the Bodhisattva is to invert that: to become conscious from moment to moment. The student learns this in the very foundation of the path, in the vehicle of the Shravakayana - to be attentive. The Mahayana practitioner also learns to be attentive, with more attention on the benefit of others. The Bodhisattva has to learn to be attentive with compassion and awareness of Emptiness. And it is that awareness, the quality of consciousness, that is built upon the qualities of the Ethereal Body.
This is why chastity, again, is so important. The mind and our sexual energy are totally united. Someone who is addicted to fornication, to lust, has a mind that is filled with passion, with desire for self-satisfaction. This is antithetical to Bodhichitta. It is poisonous to Bodhichitta, because lust seeks to feed itself. Pride seeks to feed itself. Anger seeks to hurt other people in order to feed itself. So all of these qualities perform wrong action and hurt other people and feed the self, which are the opposite of these Three Factors.
The work begins by transforming the sexual forces that we have through conscious will: self-sacrifice.
We have to understand that these Six Paramitas are interrelated with each other, and they build on each other. The Bodhisattva who comprehends in themselves the true nature of Generosity is understanding how to perform action for the benefit of others without a sense of self: that means, without self-interest. Such a person acts because it benefits other people. It can be said that when the Bodhisattva acts, they act on behalf of others without concern for their own needs.
Now that statement has some subtlety in it. If you read some of the stories of the Buddha, the Jataka tales (stories of the Buddha's previous lives), you'll read about how, for example, in one lifetime the Buddha Shakyamuni was a rabbit, and a beggar was starving, so the Buddha as a rabbit threw himself into a fire in order to feed the beggar. This is a symbolic story of self-sacrifice, that he was willing even to give his own physical life to benefit this person that was hungry. The story is symbolic. This does not mean that a Bodhisattva will always seek ways to die. That moment comes, with Resurrection, which is exemplified in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. But the Bodhisattva really has to learn how to act in the right way at the right time in the right place. This is very challenging. The karma of these times is so deep, so heavy, so complex, it is difficult to know how to behave in the right way. But we can reflect on this story by considering this: if all those who aspire to the Bodhisattva ideal were to commit suicidal acts of self-sacrifice, who would be left to help the rest of those who suffer?
Generosity-when developed in the Bodhisattva-is the conscious quality of giving for the benefit of others that is harmonious with the understanding of the Absolute, and that naturally gives rise to Ethics, because to know what to do, to know what is right and wrong, is a question of Ethics.
So the action of Generosity gives rise to conscious Ethics, and understanding what is right to do at the right time and place then gives rise to Patience, which is the ability to withstand circumstances with joy - not with resentment, not with despondency - but with happiness. And when you have the capacity to withstand difficulties (this virtue, this quality of transcendental Patience), then you are developing the capacity to keep working no matter what, which is Diligence, the Fourth Paramita. Conscious Diligence is the persistence to keep going, and that quality of persisting, of continuing, of constantly driving towards the goal without giving up, develops the quality of Concentration, which is the Fifth Paramita. From that Concentration, being able to apply oneself without fail, without wavering, without distraction, there naturally arises Wisdom. Wisdom, of course, as a Paramita, is the Wisdom of the Absolute: the understanding of Emptiness, of Shunyata.
So you can see that these Paramitas have two fundamental functions when we study them. They are qualities of Consciousness that we need to develop, so we describe the Paramitas as states of mind in development, but they are also goals to be arrived at. The Paramita of Generosity is something we develop in ourselves, and it becomes at the end perfected. As I said, that has levels.
Bhumis, Grounds, or Levels
In Buddhism, the Six Paramitas make up the first six "grounds" or first six levels of the Path of the Bodhisattva. The Bodhisattva who has entered into the Direct Path receives a very special Initiation called the Initiation of Tiphereth, and they enter into a whole new level of work on themselves, which is not available, not accessible, to Pratyeka Buddhas or the Shravaka path walkers.
The Bodhisattva Path is very sophisticated. It is based upon the complete perfection of our mind, which as you know is very complex. The contents of our mind are very messy. The Bodhisattva has to clean the entire mind, and in the Greek mythology this is expressed by the symbol of the Labors of Hercules. Those Labors are twelve, and they relate to detailed psychological works that a Bodhisattva has to pass through. This is why in the tradition of Kalachakra, in Tibetan Buddhism, there are Twelve Bhumis, twelve levels or twelve grounds the Bodhisattva has to move through to reach absolute perfection. In other forms of Buddhism it is taught that there are ten; there are many ways to look at this wisdom, but the path is the same. These are just terms to help us develop some understanding, to prepare ourselves, so we do not need to get caught up in all the details of the correspondences.
In synthesis, the Ten Bhumis, or levels, are constituted by the first six-the six Paramitas-and the next four are qualities beyond the Paramitas. We will discuss those in a later lecture, but all of the Bhumis, the Paramitas, are qualities that feed the deepening understanding of the Absolute. None of them is exempt from that. The Bodhisattva in its very purpose is a vehicle of the energy of the Absolute, and therefore must understand that energy very deeply.
Generosity forms the foundation of all of those Paramitas. All of the Paramitas, the entire quality of the Bodhichitta (of the mind of a Bodhisattva) has its basis in Generosity. Bodhichitta itself is a form of Generosity, of acting without self. And this is why it is so important for us to understand the nature of our own internal bodies. In order for the wisdom of Christ, the wisdom of Chokmah, Avalokiteshvara, to express through the vehicle of the Bodhisattva, the capacitors have to be there: the light bulb, the technology to receive and transmit that light. That technology is our own mind, and our own mind is made up of these five fundamental parts we have been discussing: Physical, Vital, Emotional, Mental, and Conscious Will. Those provide the means through which that light can express itself.
The Paramita of Generosity provides this foundation, and the Bodhisattva who enters into the Path works first in the Bhumi, the level of Generosity. The reason for this is very clear. Just because an Initiate, a person like one of us, has created the Solar Bodies, these vehicles in order to transmit light, does not mean they have eliminated the ego. Desire is still very much alive in that person. They are in a very dangerous position. The Path of the Bodhisattva is extremely dangerous. That is why it has always been taught only to Initiates who have proven their capacity to understand it.
Generosity is taught in the beginning. It is said to be the first Bhumi because the Bodhisattva, while still having ego, still has clinging, still has pride, still has selfishness, still has attachment to their own idea of themselves. They have developed some capacity of Bodhichitta; otherwise they could not enter into the Bodhisattva Path. They have developed those Solar Bodies: Solar Astral, Solar Mental, and Solar Causal, which can act as transmitters of that light. So they can give the teaching, they can transmit the wisdom, but the ego is still alive, which means they have imperfections.
Generosity is the first Bhumi because they need to develop that Bodhichitta more, to focus more and more on benefiting others. The purpose of the Bodhisattva path is to benefit other beings, so Generosity is the first Bhumi.
This quality of self-sacrifice is present in every religion. It is present in every teaching, but again we have to look at it in terms of the three yanas (the levels of teaching). We all know how important it is to be generous and to provide for others. When we are working in the Foundational Path, we learn how to be generous at that level in order to understand Ethics in ourselves and to understand Karma in ourselves - to give to others because it is a good thing to do. But our own self-interest is at the heart there. Generosity in the Mahayana teaching is more focused on the other person, and for the Bodhisattva even more so.
Self-sacrifice is the emphasis, and of course that is the life of the Bodhisattva: the sacrifice of self. The Master Jesus is a beautiful example of that in his life story, that his actions, his life was an exemplification of the Path of the Bodhisattva. He gave of himself completely and all for the benefit of others. And all the other great Bodhisattvas have done the same, in their way, but none did it like Jesus did, because he had a special mission, which we are going to discuss in these lectures.
Forms of Generosity
Generosity comes in three primary forms. The highest form of giving is to give the Dharma, to give the teachings, to give Gnosis. The Dharma, the wisdom of Christ, is the science through which one can be liberated from suffering. This is the greatest gift you can ever receive, and it is the greatest gift you can ever give. But - it has to be given with skill: knowing what to give and when.
Someone who teaches Gnosis or teaches Dharma is like a doctor. As a doctor, you need to know very well the effects of the medicine and the illness of the patient. If you give them too much medicine, they will die. If you give them too little, they will die. So to properly give Dharma, to properly teach Gnosis, requires more and more development of Bodhichitta, which comprehends both the needs of beings and the nature of Emptiness. It is this wisdom, this unification, which gives you the spontaneous intuitive guidance and direct access to your own Being, who can give you the guidance you need.
The second form of Generosity is to give protection, and really this means to give fearlessness. And if you think about it, in your own life, the feeling of being safe is extraordinarily valuable. To live in a state of fear is miserable: fear of your life, fear of your health, fear of your well-being. This is a miserable state of existence. So to provide someone with the sense of fearlessness, to give them protection, is a huge gift, and again this comes in levels.
There are some people who teach about religion, but they teach it by manipulating fear, by making people afraid, and this is wrong. This is opposed to the way the Law of the Christ, the light, is being expressed. It is wrong to spread fear. It is a crime. Therefore if you are teaching Gnosis, if you are teaching Dharma, you have to develop the skill to teach it without spreading fear. Yet, as a doctor, you have to give the remedy and you have to give the medicine. Some people have questioned: "Why did the prophets give us warnings about calamities to come?" "Why did the prophets say that Doomsday is arriving?" "It just makes people afraid; it just scares everybody." Or, "why do the teachings keep emphasizing Karma and punishment?" "Why is it always this judgmental teaching, making everybody feel guilty?"
We have to understand something about the teachings. Gnosis expresses the nature of the Law. Gnosis does not, in its heart, condemn or judge. Gnosis, Wisdom, the light of Christ, IS - and when we break the Law, when we oppose the current, we suffer. Therefore when we hear of our mistake, we get upset. And unfortunately, some people will teach the Dharma, teach the Religion, but in a judgmental way, or in a fear-based way, saying: "Doomsday is coming, you better repent now!" But to stimulate fear.
The prophecies are given because they are true. We are in very dark days, and yes, things will get worse. This is the nature of the analysis of the doctor. If you have cancer, you need to know about it. And if you have fear of it, that is because of your own mind. It is better to know that the illness is there rather than to remain in ignorance. If you are ignorant of it you cannot cure it, and you will die - and this is true of the mind. This is true of Karma. We have to know the truth.
Gnosis scares people, it upsets people, it makes them angry - and this is unfortunate. This is why it is so important to learn skillful ways of teaching, skillful manners of expression, to learn how to speak in a way that is conducive to the mentality of the recipient - to speak in a way that can be understood, to learn as an instructor how to navigate the fragile psyche of the student. This is a great art form. You see teachers like Buddha and Jesus and Krishna were experts. It is very useful to study their teachings, because if you aspire to walk this path, you in your way will be a teacher as well, and the more you can learn from those Masters, the better, the more skill you will acquire.
The third form of Generosity relates to material goods. All three of these have their value. All three have their importance. All three are utilized by walkers of the path in order to benefit others. Now, it is obvious that the third form of Generosity is the easiest. It is a very easy matter to give someone some possession that you have. There is a level or a degree of sacrifice in giving gifts like that. But the measurement is how that gift relates to your own mind.
In the development of the Bodhichitta, the perfection of Generosity is to give perfectly, without any sense of self, and this is the wisdom of the Absolute. We are not there yet. You can particularly see this if you look at our culture. If you look at the world's culture now, what would you see as its reflection of this Paramita of Generosity? Would you see this Perfection at all? If you watch TV for a few hours do you see the Paramita of Generosity anywhere? I expect you will not; I expect you will see its opposite, which is greed.
Our culture, our psyche, our mind, is saturated with greed, with clinging, with attachment. Some of us become so consumed by our attachment to material things that we hoard even pennies and nickels. We hoard little pieces of paper. We hoard anything we can get our hands on and we stuff our houses with all kinds of things that we never use, but we grasp them, desperately. And this reflects a quality of mind, which produces suffering.
In order to cultivate Generosity, walkers of the Shravakayana learn how to start by giving little things, material things, making gifts, donations. So in churches and in temples you always hear of tithing, Dhana, and this is a sort of moral value that is taught to the lay practitioners, monks, and nuns to give a little bit of themselves in order to teach them how to do it consciously. Most of the time this is difficult. People really struggle, even giving a few dollars. People have fear; they have worry. They do not give it with their heart. And in the Gospels, Jesus gives a beautiful story, a beautiful little scene about this in the book of Mark. It says:
Jesus sat down opposite the treasury of the temple, and watched the multitude putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came, and put in two copper coins, which make a penny. And he calls his disciples to him and said to them, Truly I say to you this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living. -Mark 12:41-44
This is an example or an illustration of that Paramita of Generosity in the Shravakayana level, the very beginning stages of giving. This widow, this woman, was accomplishing that. She represents a quality of Bodhichitta that we need to develop, which is a quality of giving from our entire being, everything we have, for the benefit of others.
Observe your own mind in your day-to-day life, and how your own mind is always seeking to acquire new things. You want to get a better television. You want to get a nicer car, or you want to go to the mall and buy some new clothes. Or you think you need a new pair of shoes-but really you want a new pair of shoes. You already have ten, or fifteen or twenty, but you want a new pair. Or for example, you may already have a refrigerator full of food, but you want another refrigerator to fill up with food.
It is important for us to analyze this quality that we have of accumulating things. Our culture stimulates it at every opportunity, saying that if we buy this next thing, we will be happy. If we get the next great car that is coming out, or the next great computer that is just come out, we will be happy. This is an illusion, and it is directly opposed to the development of the Paramita of giving, Generosity.
Each time you are confronted with these advertisements, with a big sale at the mall, with any kind of magazine or book that is stimulating you to buy something or get something, observe yourself. Observe those impulses, those desires, in your Three Brains. As a sensation, physically, you will feel that urgency to rush out right now and go buy it. You will feel that emotional desire that you like this thing, maybe the new cell phone that is just come out and you really like it. And you feel the thoughts, you see those thoughts in your mind, "Well, if I do this and that, then I can go get it!"
Observe all those qualities of your mind, and ask yourself the question: "Will this benefit me, or will it benefit others? Who will this benefit?"
Now in asking this question, naturally we have needs. Naturally we need to eat. We need to be clothed. We need a safe and warm place to live. But needs and wants are different. The Buddha taught the Middle Path, to be in the middle of wealth and poverty. Remember: in his life story he started out as a wealthy prince who had absolutely everything. He renounced that and became an ascetic with absolutely nothing. And then he renounced both paths, and said, "It is better to walk in the Middle", to have balance - to have what you need, but no more.
How and When to Give
In fact, the Path of the Bodhisattva is the path in which you take what you have and you make it useful for others. Even those things that you need, you make them useful for others. And this is a transformation of the mind. You will see in yourself that it takes effort. It does not happen on its own. You have to consciously perform this transformation in yourself: to learn how to give for the benefit of other people.
When this quality of Generosity, when we are working on ourselves, to reduce attachment, to reduce greed, all the other Paramitas come into play, cause to really know how to give something to someone else, you need to have some understanding of Ethics: what is right and wrong; the right time and place to do it. For example, if you live in a big city, you are going to see homeless people all the time, and you see that they have needs, and it is sad to see them suffering. But you have to know how to help them. If you go to any particular beggar or homeless person and just give them money, you might be doing wrong action, because they can take that money and buy drugs or alcohol, which is harmful. It is better to just buy them something to eat. Then you know that you have done something helpful for them.
This example applies to everything in life. When you want to perform a good action, you have to measure the time and place, to be skillful. We also have to look at it in terms of its ultimate effect. When we are trying to develop the capacity of Generosity, we have to understand that something that we give in the short term might be harmful in the long term, and this is not a good gift. You have to think clearly, think carefully, and analyze your actions, your impulses and the circumstances. This is why when we talk about Self-observation we always talk about the Three Brains (the internal state), but we also have to study the events (the external circumstances), cause both of those related to each other produce the given phenomena. You cannot isolate one from the other. You have to look at both.
In synthesis, the Paramita of Generosity requires that we develop a great deal of Self-awareness. In the Gospels (this scripture appears in numerous books in the Gospels) Jesus said that "if any man would come after me, let him deny himself, let him take up his cross, and follow me."
To deny oneself is to deny the ego, to deny our own desires; to deny our own grasping, our search for pleasure or for security; for self-satisfaction; to feel good about ourselves; to feel proud, to be admired. We have to renounce all of that. This of course is Death, the first of the Three Factors.
To take up the cross is symbolic of Alchemy: the crossing of the two beams, male and female, which transforms energy. This is how we give rise to Birth. When you cross the male and the female, the capacity to create is there, to give Birth, and this is virtuous action.
To follow Jesus, to follow after him, is to live as he did, solely for the benefit of others, and this of course is Sacrifice.
Each of these Factors apply to every action that we perform. As you move through your day-to-day life, apply these Three Factors. When you are facing a decision, look at that decision from the point of view of these Three Factors. Analyze yourself and the situation. Look to see by calming your mind, by calming your heart, and by looking at the situation without desire, without self-interest, try to see it objectively as if you are looking at someone else's life, as if you are just an actor - and analyze that situation to see: "Where is the Death in this situation? What will die, if I act in this particular way? What will be born? And whom will it benefit?"
To survive in this day and age, we need money in order to provide for ourselves and pay our bills. Therefore we need some form of income. Just because you have a job does not make you selfish, yet certain kinds of jobs or certain kinds of goals that you have related to work can become very selfish. If you are making a decision related to your career, to work, analyze it from this point of view. Are you seeking solely for your own benefit, or are you considering the benefit of others as well?
For example, what would you do if tomorrow you get a phone call and are offered a job that will pay you three times the salary you are earning now-but it is selling weapons. You might think that is an easy decision, but your mind will start to ruminate on the cash, and your mind will start to say: "Oh, I can make all that money! And I could use it to benefit other people! I could donate all of that money to Gnosis!"
Do not be fooled. The mind is very sneaky. Remember: look at the short term and the long term. Analyze your decisions. Analyze your actions in light of these Three Factors. Learn how to apply all of these Paramitas in your efforts, but understand one thing very clearly: to really comprehend, to really know, you must meditate.
In your physical body, with your physical senses, you can only perceive so much. You can perceive what your five senses will show you, which is limited. To go beyond that is to truly apply the Paramitas to the situation, because you see, as much Generosity as we have in trying to do the right thing for others, as much as we have in Ethics, to try to do what is right, and as much as we have Patience to withstand and endure the difficulties of our life, and as much Diligence as we have to keep trying, we also need Concentration, and Concentration in this Paramita is not mere concentration the way we think of it. It is actually Dhyana (in Sanskrit), which is Shamatha (Tibetan: Shinay): one-pointed mind, Samadhi. This is the capacity to perceive without the ego, to perceive consciously, free of desire. And it is that perception which gives rise to Wisdom. Wisdom is how you really know what to do.
Let us say you are a Gnostic instructor. Someone comes and says: "I'm going to give you a million dollars." And that is all they say. As a Gnostic instructor you would say, "Wow, that is great! I can do a lot with that." So as a physical person your impulse would be, "I'll take it!" But if you are more careful, if you meditate, you might discover that there's more to that offer than is visible on the surface. You might see the truth of the situation: that nothing comes for free. Nothing. Everything costs something. So physically the offer might be there, and physically that is all you can see, but internally there has got to be an exchange. Something has to be given back, and it might come in the form of a compromise that is not acceptable.
This is why you cannot rely on physical perception alone. The same is true of a job offer. The same is true of any given situation. There is more to it than the physical part. Remember that we have the physical body. We also have the Ethereal Body. We also have the Body of Emotions, the Body of Thought, and the Body of Will - and in each of these worlds there are exchanges occurring, interactions, transformations. If we do not have awareness or perception of those spheres, then we have to be very careful, to try to act in the right way at all times.
This becomes especially important for the Bodhisattva. The person who enters into the Path of the Bodhisattva faces immense danger, because this Path of the Bodhisattva is a revolution which goes one hundred percent against one's own mind, and it goes one hundred percent against the way of the world - which means there are enormous forces against the Bodhisattva.
What makes it more difficult is that the Initiate who is first working in the Foundational and Mahayana Paths, develops these five Solar Bodies through the first five Initiations of Major Mysteries (the Serpents of Fire which are related to the Kundalini of each body), and in the process of accomplishing those works, the Initiate is given a lot of help. Through each Initiation, there is assistance provided by conscious beings who are assigned to that person to assist them, to help them. In other words, the Initiate is given light, is given guidance, is given help. But when the person chooses to enter into the Bodhisattva path, to go into the path of the revolution, all of that help is withdrawn. The Initiate is then on their own, on their own to face their Karma, to face the Jealous Gods, to face the demons and devils, both inside and out.
This is why it is so important to do a very strong and rigorous development of Bodhichitta. This is why the Paramitas are so essential. In order to face those forces and overcome them, it requires a great deal of wisdom.
Questions and Answers
Question: How can one be sacrificing everything for others and doing all this when he still has egos within himself?
Answer: Well, that is the challenge. We all have something to give, everyone. Every person has something to give. Each of us are transformers of energy, and each of us has experiences, a level of understanding that can help someone else. And so we have that capacity, everyone, to help someone else. It may not be in a huge way. It may be in little ways. What's essential is for us is to learn how to discriminate how to give, and when. And we have to do that according to our own circumstances. It's different for each person.
But in general, in order for us to proceed and develop all the capacities that we have, all of those capacities are developed through Generosity, through giving. If you look at the state of life, any real happiness in life has come about because of Generosity. Think about that. All of the truly happy things, the truly happy moments come because you have given something to someone, and it gives you a sense of joy, or you've received something that was a beautiful gift and it gives you a sense of joy. And this gives you the inspiration to develop that capacity more. Another way of looking at it is that done skillfully, Generosity will always benefit. Greed will never.
Comment: That is what I'm saying. A lot of people are happy, but they're satisfying greed, anger and jealousy. They're walking around happy all the time.
Answer: Well, I'm talking about real happiness. I'm not talking about conditioned happiness. By conditioned happiness I mean happiness that relies upon impermanent conditions. For example, if you are happy because you are wealthy, that happiness is short-lived, cause you will not be wealthy always. In fact, when you die, you will lose all of that. Will you still be happy? If you are happy because you are healthy, that is also short-lived, cause you will get sick, and you will die. But that is not real happiness.
Real happiness is unconditioned. It doesn't rely on conditions or circumstances
Comment: But we have be thankful for our physical body...
Answer: Naturally, we have to have gratitude, absolutely. What I'm pointing at though is that Generosity has the capacity to provide happiness in an unusual way, in a different way. It can provide an influence or an energy or a force that is beyond material things. If you think about the gifts that you've received from your parents, naturally your parents provide you when you are growing up with whatever they can materially, right? But when you become older, you start to understand more about what parents actually can give you, which is discipline, which is love, help with problems, support in cases when they really didn't want to help you. And those kinds of gifts can start to show you something about the capacity of giving. But there is something in giving that is special.
So to develop the Paramita of Generosity means that we understand how to give, in the right way at the right time. And anyone has that capacity.
Question: Is the Luminous Ether also utilized for perception while in the Astral World or is it just in the physical world?
Answer: The Luminous Ether and the Reflecting Ether are aspects of our Ethereal Body, which is related to the Fourth Dimension. This is a plane of existence that manages energy and it forms a sort of interface between dimensions. But the Vital Body, the Ethereal Body, these Ethers, are not the root of perception. They are just vehicles of perception. You have eyes in your physical body, which is how you perceive physically. But those eyes function because you have an Ethereal Body which has this Luminous Ether, which allows the energy of light to be transmitted to your mind.
The Astral Body has its own ways of perceiving. The Mental Body has its own ways of perceiving, its own senses, and these senses are called Chakras. All of the bodies that we have only perceive because we have consciousness. So consciousness is the root of perception. But consciousness is not dependent on any body: physically, in the Fourth, or Fifth or Sixth Dimensions. The consciousness can perceive without vehicles of any kind. But any vehicle without consciousness cannot perceive.
Consciousness is the light that fills the bulb, and if the light is not there, there is no perception. Make sense?
Comment: And we state that since those Four Ethers are the foundation of Yesod and the origin of the physical body, obviously they act within their own level, the Four Ethers, in each sphere, because they are the outcome of Yesod in different octaves.
Answer: The comment is made that the Ethers of the Vital Body will act in their own way in relation to each sphere, cause they are the Foundation. This relates to the interpenetrating nature of all the spheres. These spheres are isolated and separated on the structure so that our feeble mind can grasp it. But the reality is that they all interpenetrate, and the truth is that the structure of the Tree of Life is greatly simplified. When we look at this simple structure we have to remember that. There are intimate relationships between each of the bodies, between how the Astral and Mental Bodies relate, and how the Vital Body is related to them.
On that note it is important to emphasize once again that the cultivation and realization of this path comes through self-development, through perfecting and cleansing these bodies, which are in synthesis the mind that we have. The primary way we do that is through meditation. The primary mechanism, the force that we use to cleanse the mind is rooted in the Ethereal Body. It is the sexual energy, the force which gives rise to life. The sexual energy is the same light of Chokmah, the same fire of the Holy Spirit, the same Wisdom of Kether, which provides all the elements to create, but which also provides all the elements to destroy. The management of that energy is rooted in our mind, in our will, in our thoughts, in our feelings, and how we use energy. The Ethereal Body with the Four Ethers is the mechanism through which that energy flows. Energy in our entire psyche is managed there, back and forth, in and out, transformed in accordance with the state of that vehicle.
When that energy, the sexual force, is utilized to cleanse the mind, real virtue can be born naturally in us. In other words, we can aspire all we want to be a virtuous person, to be a good person, to be generous, but we will never be so long as greed is alive in us, and this is why Gnosis places so much emphasis on the death of the ego. This is why when you read the books of Samael Aun Weor there is a constant hammering of the same point: comprehend the "I," meditate, comprehend your ego. The intention behind that is an intention of Generosity. It is an intention of Bodhichitta. It is a wisdom that knows that when there is death, then new things emerge. But if there is no death, any new thing that emerges will be corrupt, because it will be corrupted by the impurities that remain there. This the great danger for the Bodhisattva.
As strange as it may sound, an Initiate can create all the Solar Bodies, can even develop Bodhichitta, this generous spirit towards other people and the comprehension of wisdom, and thus enter unto the Bodhisattva path, and yet not eliminate the ego. It sounds strange, but it happens, and it is because there is not enough attention paid to death, psychological death, symbolized in the Gospel by John the Baptist in his decapitation, and by the crucifixion of Christ.
If the death does not occur, then the birth that is happening is corrupted. The Bodhichitta and the sexual energy form energy to give rise to the Paramitas, but the death is not occurring because the meditation is not profound enough. There is not enough attention focused on the death of the Ego. The result is an abortion of Nature, called a hasnamuss, a Marut, a demon.
There is a great danger in this type of practice, this type of study, in the Path of the Bodhisattva. When you start to harness the sexual force, you need to be aware that every day you are using energy, very potent energy. So be sure to use it wisely. Be sure to use it consciously. And be sure to analyze your ego and resolve to change. Meditate on the ego everyday. Never forget. The death of the ego spontaneously gives rise to new virtue.
It is important as well to emphasize that you should also not simply meditate just on the ego. We need balance. And I am putting it this way because there are groups of students who meditate exclusively on the ego, who analyze the ego, but they never try to comprehend the virtues. They never try to cultivate the Paramitas. You have to do both. The consciousness needs to comprehend the distinction between the two.
So if you have an event that happens today that you feel is important for you to understand, meditate on that event, and analyze it from the point of view from these Three Factors. When you acted, what was born, what died, and who benefited? When you meditate on a scene or an event in which you did behave in a harmful way, good - meditate on that deeply, comprehend it - but also spend a little time allowing your consciousness to show you how you should have behaved, to allow your consciousness to realize the right action. So you have to do both sides, always from the point of view of who benefits.