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It bewildered me, angered me at the time.
I mean a Republican speechwriter, can you imagine the dressing downs? He used to get the whole family to do articulation drills. We were given a subject and then you had to talk about a specific thing — a chair, the capital of Spain, whatever — for four minutes without any broken speech.
It was a valuable lesson. It made me think in measured tones. I am never at a loss for words. One night Grohl, aged 16, reached his. Of course, I still did it. When Kurt died, every time the radio came on, it broke my heart So that is precisely what an already ambitious Grohl did.
Call me back. Instead, I did the show. It was this huge triumph. It felt like a milestone achievement in my life. I was so proud. The following day, he collared his hungover son, dragged him back to his house and forced him to study all day. Then he asked me, again rhetorically, if I had considered going into the army.
I ran away.
That very night. And you know what I did last night The band, the gig, what that moment meant to me. By Olive Pometsey Where did Grohl run to? He laughs and the atmosphere lightens. When I joined Nirvana and we were getting really, really stupidly popular, I had another one of those talks.
Why would it? You remember being 21? Sounds easy? For us it is not, because the mind is very habitual. The mind wants to keep repeating thinking and feeling and wondering and questioning and doubting, and when it does that, disengage. Let it do whatever it is doing, do not let it take you. It is like a current of a river, let it flow past. It is as if you are just watching a cloud in the sky, but instead of watching a cloud, you are watching the room that you are in, and you are watching your mind.
You see that everything is slowly changing, or quickly changing, but you do not need to get involved or get distracted. You simply watch. This simple awareness, uncontrived, unconditioned, is the only gateway to liberation from suffering. There is no other door. That door is here, being here and now. Observing, always. That is the door to being free from suffering. That is the door to real knowledge: awareness, Consciousness , cognizance. So starting with that fundamental point of view, let us also be aware of everything in our environment.
For this, you may need to start using a little bit of your imagination. Expand your awareness out. Become aware of everything you can, not only yourself in whatever posture you have, however you feel, intellectually or emotionally or physically.
Begin to expand out and perceive everything that you can perceive: the reality, the room you are in, the sounds you hear, the things you see, what you feel on your body.
Expand that awareness. This is the purpose of these teachings. It is to expand our awareness. To break free of that condition of only being aware of our selfish habits, and to begin to become aware of what is actually happening, inside and outside, but mostly inside.
Now, with a little bit of imagination, expand that awareness further to, let us say, a city block. You, more or less, must have some idea of where you are and what is in the area. So expand that awareness out to what you saw before you arrived where you are. Let us say you came to a classroom or a room in your house. What is in the environment outside of that? Be aware of yourself in relation to that. There is a lot going on in that space, a hundred meters from you in a circle, all the way around you.
What is there? What is going on? Where are you? How important are you in that perspective? Less important than when you were only focused on yourself.
So let us expand that further. Imagine the city that you are in. Imagine all the people, all the animals, all the plants, the insects, the microbes, everything.
Expand that further to the country, to the millions of people, all of whom are not aware of you at all, and do not care about you at all. They only care about their own desires, their own sufferings, and their own cravings. They are ignorant. They are suffering. Now become aware that this whole planet is like that. Billions of humanoids, who are in that state now that you were just in a few minutes ago, but now you are trying to break free of by expanding your awareness.
But the other 6 or 7 billion people are not.
Be aware of that. Be aware that you are only one amongst an immense crowd, no different from anyone else. No better, no worse. Expand that more.
This planet is not that big, there are other planets here. There are other solar systems. There are other galaxies. Do you feel small?
Can you conceptualize for a moment how many beings exist? The mind breaks with the effort. It is too immense, and we are too insignificant and we do not like to think that. We want to feel important. We want to feel as though we are the center of the universe, but the fact is, we are not. We are only one of an uncountable number of beings. Many of them more developed than us, many less developed than us. Very few have escaped the wheel, but it is possible.
This exercise should bring up a sense of awe, and also a powerful feeling of compassion for the uncountable, suffering beings. We should feel love.
If this simple exercise brought a new sense of awareness or feeling, then remember: if a moment of mere awareness can change how you feel, imagine what is possible if you sustain that awareness! Discouragement and Timeliness This type of practice or exercise should not lead you to feel discouraged. It should lead you to start to become aware of the truth, that is, to put your ego in perspective.
If you feel overwhelmed or discouraged, realize that your situation is not hopeless, because the method to escape the wheel is now available to this humanity freely like it never has been before. So, even though we are insects in the scheme of things no offense intended, but we really are just insects , we actually now on this planet for the first time in our history have access to protected teachings that were never available.
Even just a few decades ago, anyone who revealed it would have been killed. This is extraordinary. It is the first time in the history of this planet for the teachings to be available like this. We have access to so many teachings from so many important masters, that we must take advantage. Right now is our opportunity, and it will not last.
It is important to reflect on this, because we are still trapped in samsara. Expanding our awareness and expanding our understanding does not free us from liberation. It only gives us perspective of where we are. Freedom from suffering, to be liberated, requires that we cut the cycle, that samsara stops. Nirvana means that: cessation. We explained this in the previous lecture. Nirvana is not just a place, it is a state of being, a state of being that you have to experience to understand.
You can believe in nirvana as much as you want, but it means nothing unless you are experiencing nirvana right now, because to abide in nirvana, your Consciousness must vibrate at that level. We are here in the world now because this is the level of our psychology. We are here stuck with everybody else because this is where we belong. That is a delusion. We are where we are because we deserve it, because that is our level.
Our life is a reflection of our psychology. To live in nirvana, you must be psychologically in that level. We can achieve it now. It is you, until you change. Nirvana is to have cut through this circling. Where are you psychologically right now, in your life?
What is your level of being? To change that, you have to cut through your habitual behaviors in your mind. If you do not change your psychological tendencies, you will not escape samsara, you will not be liberated.
It does not matter what you believe, it does not matter how much money you give to a church, or how faithful you are to your teacher, or how many books you memorized and studied, or how great a lecturer you are, or how much you do for humanity.
If you do not cut your psychological tendencies, you will remain in samsara. No exceptions. This is just how nature works. When we perform wrong action, we become enslaved to it, it develops a habit. That is samsara. The mind does not see itself; Good or bad action is caused by the mind. It revolves like a fire wheel, Moves like waves, Burns like a forest fire, Widens like a great river. It was explained in that lecture that the axis of the wheel is represented as three animals, which are very deep in their implications and meanings in our psychology.
That is the Law of Three, the Trinity, the power of creation, which unfortunately in us has become the power of destruction. It is the axle of the wheel of our suffering, and again, this is not outside of us, it is inside of us. Those three animals represent ignorance, craving, and aversion, and because of the motion of those forces in our psyche, cause and effect are enacted or empowered because of our ignorance, because of our craving, because of our aversion we cause harmful effects, which is that second wheel.
Good and bad, but nonetheless deluded. Sometimes we do good things, sometimes we do bad things, sometimes we do things that are, more or less, neutral. But, nonetheless, since they emerge from the state of fundamental ignorance about reality, particularly our inner reality, we bind ourselves to this wheel. I am not going to take the time to explain those twelve stages. They are very well explained in many Buddhist texts. You can study them, and I recommend it; they are very useful.
They are particularly useful if you meditate because they point out very subtle interactions that happen in us psychologically that when you become aware of them, it gives a tool to cut through the cycle. Today I want to focus on one. Really, it is the foundation of the cycle. Ignorance We explained these three animals represent craving and aversion, and the dynamic that happens between them.
They are really only able to function because of the first, which is ignorance. If you can cut ignorance, you can cut the movement of the entire wheel. So this graphic shows you one painting of that blind man. That blind man represents us, psychologically, how we are as a Consciousness , stumbling through our lives without any awareness of reality, not seeing the truth, not seeing the steps in front of us, but instead, fully and completely distracted by a wrong perception of everything.
In Sanskrit, ignorance is avidya. In Tibetan, marigpa. This is not a knowing of books, a knowing of philosophy, a knowing of a religion. It is not seeing, and not cognizing. You see, it needs to be understood like this because most of us have studied religion or philosophy in some way. Most of us have some sense of what ethics are. I do not mean morality, I mean ethics.
Nonetheless, even having those concepts or beliefs, we do not know them because we always contradict them, especially when we feel we will gain something that we desire.
They have been told, they have heard it, they even have observed in their lives how their addiction is hurting them. But they do not stop because they do not have Gnosis of it. They do not have real knowledge.
If they really knew, they would never touch that addiction; they will not even be tempted. There will be no temptation at all. No desire, no craving, no curiosity. So if we talk about alcohol, for example, or cigarettes, an addict may know that it is harmful and may go through a terrible mental conflict about it or not , but still succumb to the craving and justify it in many different ways to themselves and to others.
Someone who has cognizance conscious knowledge of the damage that the addiction is causing will not even have an atom of attraction to that element, to the cigarette or the drink. They will have no interest in it. That cigarette or that drink could just be a piece of paper or a rock. It would be that meaningless. This is important because all of us are addicts, and not just substances outside of the body. We are addicts to our habits, psychologically. All of us are addicted to pride, each of us in our own way.
We are addicted to feeling better than others. We are addicted to praise. Some of us are addicted to being blamed and cursed and rejected. Some of us are addicted to feeling like an outcast or feeling like a martyr, while others are addicted to feeling like a hero. Some are addicted to feeling left out, some to being included.
Some are addicted to being ignored, and some are addicted to getting attention. We have to find our psychological addictions. We are addicted to pride, to lust, to envy, to gluttony, to greed, to laziness. This is why we suffer.
This is why we are in a state of ignorance. We have our awareness so bottled up and conditioned; we have no knowledge of anything outside of the addictions. We are constantly caught in a stream of harmful thinking, repetitive, cyclic, psychological factors. Worrying, wondering, remembering, imagining, desiring, avoiding. Never here and now, simply being. We are always trying to modify our external environment in order to satisfy an unquenchable internal craving, and we will never succeed.
We never have, we never will. We have to cut the cycle. We cut it by being here and now by acquiring knowledge, by renouncing the mind, the desires, the thoughts, the feelings. Purged of ignorance, samsara becomes nirvana. This alone is so far beyond our ability to understand because we are so habitual in our method of perception. We cannot even conceive of what this means.
Our ignorance is so deeply layered that this makes no sense.
We are so habitual in our assumption that what we perceive physically is real. We do not actually understand that what we perceive physically is an illusion. An illusion. We perceive life and think it is real. We perceive our thoughts, which are more subtle, and we think they are real too, and our emotions, and sensations in the body.
This is the transitory mind. It creates all forms. What appears to be external reality is actually nonexistent [like the images in a mirror]. The seeming self within the body experiencing the senses is only the mind We do not remember that form is emptiness and emptiness is form.
This is the essential for us of the Prajnaparamita, the scripture that explains the nature of the Absolute. Form is emptiness, emptiness is form; emptiness is not other than form, form too is not other than emptiness.
Likewise, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and Consciousness are all empty. Therefore, Shariputra, all phenomena are emptiness; they are without defining characteristics; they are not born, they do not cease; they are not defiled, they are not undefiled; they are not deficient, and they are not complete. When we understand this, when we perceive it, when we see it, when we experience it; that is nirvana. It is the perception of reality. It is to cut through the cycle, the habit, the tendencies.
This structure of the Wheel of Becoming illustrates how form and emptiness interact, that everything that becomes is in itself empty.
A simpler term is, simply, interdependence. That teaching essentially explains: What is the cause of everything? What is the source or origin of everything? Where is it to be found? All of us assume that this question is addressed at physical matter: Where did the rocks come from? Where did the plants come from, the animals, everything else? That is how we read the Bible, too. What Genesis explains is the origin of existence, the origin of ourselves, the origin of what we see, of what we experience, but the scripture is not literal, it is symbolic.
To comprehend the two truths is to understand that everything in the relative truth is interdependent. I explained that the ultimate truth is the Absolute. It is more than just a void or a space, it is cognizance, it is Gnosis , it is wisdom, it is the origin and root of the Divine. It is selfless. Everything that emerges or that is in existence came from that. So everything that exists only exists because of that.
Furthermore, everything that exists outside of that is impermanent, cannot be relied on, will decay, will pass away. So, let us look at that in terms of ourselves, to understand how this affects us practically, in terms of our suffering, in terms of our lives. What does it mean? It means look at yourself. Look at how you perceive, what you are experiencing, what you see, what you sense. In everything that is perceptible to you, can you find anything permanent?
Anything that is independent? Anything that does not rely on something else? Well, we assume that our body is real and that it lasts and that it is permanent, but we are mistaken.
The body is impermanent; everything about it is unreliable, uncertain. What about the personality? Because we all believe we are such and such a person with this name and this experience and these tastes and this knowledge, and we are really good at these things and we can really help people with this and that, and we have a lot of confidence in something that is an illusion, something that we will throw away the moment the body is dead.
That name and face that we are attached to is only one of thousands that we had, but we do not remember. We are in a state of complete ignorance about who we really are. The personality we have, the name that we have, is dependent on particular causes and conditions in our life that have since changed, gone away.
Everything that created this personality is no longer there as it was, and the personality itself has changed continually, and it will die.
So who is that person that we think we are? What about all those thoughts and feelings that we think are our identity? What happened to them? Are they still there? Are we real? Do we have a fundamental existence beyond the assumption that we are real? We think our thoughts are real, but we do not know where they come from or where they go.
We think that our thinking is our identity, but we cannot even control our thinking, and we think that our emotions are our identity, our reality, but we cannot control our emotions either. Moreover, our thoughts and feelings, even though we ourselves cannot control them, somebody outside of us can control them very easily. We are very easy to manipulate. You do not believe me? Remember when you were standing in line and you ordered something and the person was not bringing it for a long time and you were getting really upset?
That is weakness: impatience, anger, pride. Even a child can make you angry, can manipulate you to get what it wants. It knows your buttons. It knows that all it has to do is cry and make a lot of noise, and you will do anything to make it stop.
Moreover, any advertisement that we see, any TV show that we see, is a subtle but very powerful influence that causes us to modify our behavior all the time. We all think we have our own style, our own flavor, and our own ways of doing things. We think that we are distinct and individual and we stand out from the crowd, when in fact every single detail about ourselves we took from someone else. Those who think they dress different just copied someone else.
Moreover, their desire to be different depends on the person they are comparing themselves to. So they are not independent. They are dependent on the one they do not want to be like. Do you see the interdependence?
And these are really superficial examples. We are not even looking into the depths of the mind yet. These are just related to Malkuth , the skin of the onion. We are not free.
I do not need anyone. I am my own man or my own woman. I am going to go my own way. Not a single being on this planet is independent, and if you want to prove it, do not depend on anyone else for anything. You will have to raise and grow and make your own food, your own clothes, your own water. You will have no electricity.
You will not have an iPhone. You will not have a car. You will not have shoes, unless you make them. You can live that way if you want, but you will not like it. It will be very difficult. So: independence is an illusion. Everything about us is dependent on everyone else, and dependent on the nature of our experience in the world. We are very vulnerable and very foolish. A micron difference in the chemical constitution of our atmosphere would cause all of us to be dead, or the chemical composition of the water supply, or the position of the planet in relation with the sun or the moon.
We would be dead, we would not be here. There is such a delicate balance to everything. This is especially true in relation with our own psyche. All of these things are important, and I am presenting them to you in order for you to start to cultivate this sense of self-doubt, or skepticism about your mind and about your perception.
The way to walk in Gnosis is to question what you perceive, to not believe it, to cut through it, to be awake, to be aware. To develop real knowledge is to see the reality, not make assumptions. Not believe or disbelieve, but see, to look, to be.
No longer trying to change everything externally, instead only trying to change our perception because that simple singular action breaks the entire Wheel of Becoming. You see, liberation is not acquired through making great external effort. It is actually acquired through being completely effortless, but by being awake. It requires no effort to be liberated. What it requires is knowledge, perception.
Observe your body. Notice that from day to day, from moment to moment, how much tension you have physically. They will never ever match. This is an illusion, a carrot that is dangling in front of the donkey that it keeps walking after, but never catches. The donkey is too stupid to realize it and so are we.
That carrot is what the ego puts there and what society puts there to keep us enslaved. It is that next thing that we want, a physical thing or a psychological thing: a title, an achievement, a status, some praise, some condition that we believe will give us happiness.
They never do. Some say this is the state of being a human being; it is to never be satisfied. It is true.
To be a being in our level is that: never satisfied. I have observed very poor people and very wealthy people, and every range between. I have been all over the world. I have met enough people now to have a sense that there is no satisfaction to be found in physical things or in society, because I have seen the wealthiest who are much more dissatisfied than the poor.
I have observed a man, very wealthy, with power in the world, sit at a table in an expensive restaurant and order six entrees because he was bored with the food. That cost of that meal could have fed an entire family in another place for many months. He spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars just to taste each one to see if any of them were interesting to him. They were not. He ate nothing. He tasted each one and walked away, wasted it, because his craving could never be satisfied.
That man has found no ease in samsara. With all his power and wealth, he has found nothing. Ease is found in the awakened state. It does not mean that you should become like a log who sits and does nothing.
What it means is that your attention should be still, observant, never grasping, craving, or avoiding. Never attempting to modify what is perceived, but only to perceive it with perfection, to see it with accuracy, to see it clearly. This can only be done if we are not in a state of craving or aversion, and if we are clearing ourselves of our fundamental ignorance, our perception.
In other words, we need right view, the way of seeing from inside that is very expansive, that is not trying to modify our perception, but just to see.
It does not mean we should be inactive. Quite the contrary! Once you see what is really happening, you will need to be very active. If someone is being injured, help them. If you have a job to do, do your job.
If you have responsibilities, care for them. Be a good person. Emulate those who you would like to become, like the great masters. Serve humanity. Study the teachings. Be sincere. Be honest. Saturate yourself with the beauties of the teachings we have access to. Walk away from everything that is negative and is harmful. All of that takes effort. To practice takes effort. To serve humanity takes enormous effort, but to awaken is effortless. To awaken is to let be and not strive.
It is to be here and now, relaxed, observing always. Be here and now, relaxed. The way to see if you are successful in this is if you have ever noticed or observed in yourself tension — physical tension, emotional tension, mental tension. That tension reveals a conflict between a desire and the truth, relative or Absolute. We have tension because we want things to be different.
We either do not want something we have or we want something we do not have, and because that is the way it is, we are not happy, we are not satisfied. We have tension.
We are ignorant.