September 21, 2005

First class of the Fall 2005 semester

Aaron: My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron. It's a joy to be gathered here with you once again, to share this time together.

When people asked me what I planned to teach this year, I said, "Nothing new, for there is nothing new". We will just look at some new tools to the same ends, those ends being to grow in the ability to stay present and with kindness in your lives. To bring more kindness into every act, every word. To live with a more open heart and more wisdom. To be more fully awake, alive, and passionate.

We continuously bring in new tools. I have a written handout for you tonight. I don't want to frighten you because it's technical. Please remember that it is simply a means to an end. You're not going to be quizzed on the material. Let's pass it around…

You know about your physical bodies; you know that there are bones, nerves, muscles and tendons. You know quite a bit about the cellular structure of the body, about the organs, the energetic structure and the meridians. We lump "spirit body" together as one thing. You don't expect a muscle to take the place of a bone. You know you need an intact bone to stand on your leg. No matter how strong the muscles, the bone needs to be intact. No matter how strong the bone, you can't stand if there are no muscles. So you pay attention to both, healthy bone and strong muscles.

The way I want to begin this year with you is to review the stages of consciousness that we covered last year, just to make sure that everybody understands these stages. Then within the stages of consciousness, to see how the bodies relate. Let's look at the chart that you have.

State Body Stages
Gross Etheric Magical, Mythical, Rational
  Low astral Vision-logic (opening to the subtle)
Subtle Astral (end of vision-logic) Psychic
  High Astral Subtle
Causal Causal Christ or Buddha Consciousness
High Casual or
beyond the causal plane
  Non-dual awareness

Etheric template - This is the first entry to the subtle state. It carries the template for the causal level of the mental, emotional and physical bodies, but is not based there. It is still subject to distortion. It is part of a network with the ever perfect template (cosmic), the astral template, and the lower template which is the etheric template.

Physical body - the actual, manifest physical form at a level of the single cell, and collection of cells we call "body."

Physical Etheric body - This is the first energetic level of the physical body. It is the first layer of the aura. It is the energetic level of the gross state; the physical structure cannot exist without this energy field.

Emotional body - usual meaning; the auric fields of the emotional body follows the outline of the physical body. "Emotional Body" is not the just emotions, but the energetic background to the emotions and the expressed emotions.

Mental body - usual meaning; this also has an energetic component. "Mental Body" is not the just thoughts, but the energetic background to the thoughts and the expressed ideas.

Higher Etheric body - the energetic level of the combined mental and emotional bodies

Astral template - ties together the etheric and causal. Visually, the energy bands go in both directions, literally tying together the Dharmakaya and Nirmanakaya. This template could be considered the sambhogakaya template. It includes all the bodies below.

Astral body - the subtle body that connects the physical, mental and emotional bodies (gross state) with the transpersonal (causal and high causal). Third eye chakra.

Celestial body - this is at the high end of the subtle bodies, or the beginning of the causal state. It's a higher level of the Higher Etheric body, but similar. This is considered the emotional level of the spirit plane, involved with such higher emotions as compassion and unconditional love. These emotions can only be deeply experienced from a place of no-self. It's named for the celestial chakra that opens from the crown.

Cosmic template - the ever-perfect. We can touch it, but can't connect it to the relative plane.

Transpersonal body - the place where we connect with the universe. Has 2 levels, cosmic (Causal state) and non-dual consciousness (High-causal state). This last is the Dharmakaya and contains everything else.

There are three states of consciousness. I pointed out to Barbara that she has the lower part of the chart running from more gross to lightest, the bodies starting from the physical body and up to the cosmic template, but she has the top part of the chart in reverse. When she tried to fix it, her computer went haywire, so I finally told it's okay, just leave it be. So ideally that high causal or beyond the causal plane should be at the top, and gross should be at the bottom of that top chart.

You have the gross state of consciousness, the bodies that are part of that state of consciousness, and the stages of consciousness. The stages are what we spent time with last year. How many of you were either in class or read that material? Is there anybody who did not read that material? (A few) I will ask Barbara to find what transcripts are available. (See Aaron on Consciousness)

Three states of consciousness: gross, subtle, and causal. And within those states of consciousness, different stages of consciousness. When you think of the states of consciousness, it's important not to think of a linearity but rather a round ball, opening out. The gross state of consciousness is always surrounded by the subtle state, but if you're totally engrossed in the gross state, you won't be aware of the subtle state. The causal state of consciousness surrounds the subtle, but if you're focused right here, you don't see it. This is true for most humans, you center down into the gross state of consciousness, the physical body and the mundane level of mind, and only occasionally in your meditation practice do you break through. And you don't always connect that outer space with the direct mundane experience, but of course it has to be connected. So we're trying to get beyond any duality and begin to understand that gross, subtle, and causal are one whole, like the nut in its shell, altogether.

Last year we presented these states of consciousness and spoke at some length about the stages of consciousness. In a short time I will review those briefly. This top chart is what we gave out last year. We just swept the bodies aside, we didn't talk much about them. So in the beginning of this semester, we're going to learn to identify these bodies and become more conscious of what body is foremost in the experience, what levels are participating in an experience. Again, it's not linear. We can only create the chart in a linear way, but visualize the concentric circles. How far out are you going in those concentric circles? Are you stuck in the center or inching your way out a bit? Are you all the way out? Have you gone so far out that you've lost touch with the center, the mundane level?

I do not intend this to be an academic review; rather, I want you to understand experientially what each of these body levels is, and understand why this is important to your everyday experience. For example, you're all familiar with the physical body, the emotional body, the mental body, written at the bottom of the page. I'm going to read to you here.

"Physical etheric body. This is the first energetic level of the physical body. It is the first layer of the aura. It is the energetic level of the gross state. The physical structure cannot exist without the energy field."

One of you mentioned being in Barbara Brennan's healing school. Certainly you worked a lot with this body. Those of you who practice Reiki or other such energetic practices understand this physical etheric body.

There is a mental etheric body just like the physical one, but we don't pay much attention to it. Instead, you often try to control the mind, to push the mind around. You don't try to control the physical body in that way; you understand that if the body is experiencing tension, there's something happening energetically and you attend to the energy level. But when the mind is experiencing tension, you push it around. You don't pay attention to the fact that there's an energetic shift occurring. The same is true with the emotional body.

The etheric template is the template at the etheric level for the whole structure of physical, emotional, mental and spirit. The etheric level, as you will note on the top, relates to the gross body, the mundane mind, the physical body, the mental body, emotional body. Let's read where it says "etheric template," "This is the first entry into the subtle state." I'm getting ahead of myself. I know some of you did not hear the lectures last year. Let's go back to the top chart. We have all the time we need to work through this, I'm simply trying here to lay a brief map for you of what we're going to be doing for the first few classes.

Always we will be connecting this material to everyday life. It is not meant to be abstraction. It's useless as abstraction. How does this material help you live your life with more love and more skill? That's our focus.

Let's look first at the stages of consciousness. There are many articulations of them. I would draw from some of the most common ones here. These labels are not my own but are amongst the most traditional labels. The magical and mythical consciousness are the level of consciousness of the young child. The child in some ways is still deeply connected to its power. We think of the magical consciousness of the child as being immature, but in some ways it's very mature, just distorted. For example, the child may become very angry at something and just when it's angry, somebody in the family becomes very sick. The child truly believes that he or she created the illness. We tell the child, "That's not rational. You can't create the illness in the other." This is what we call magical consciousness. But the child is also connected to its deep power, and it knows that at some level it CAN create anything. It may know that it was angry at this adult, and then the adult perhaps had a heart attack. It had nothing to do with the child on the rational level, but the child's magical consciousness says, "I did this!" with great fear, shame, sadness, and also rejoicing at its power and afraid of that power.

When Barbara's son was very young, he had a good friend whose mother worked every day, so the friend came to Barbara's house after nursery school several times a week. The boys played together very well. He was angry at Barbara's son at one point because Barbara's son did not permit him to grab toys away. This little boy said, "I'm the guest! You're supposed to give everything to me!" Barbara's son was troubled. He wanted to please his friend but he got tired when, every time he picked something up, his friend came over and said, "Oh, I want that."

So Barbara and the boy's mother talked about it, and instructed her son, "Don't give in to him." This little boy became very angry, and he said, "I'm going to stay under the dining table and I won't come out until you give me your toys." It so happened the day that he did that, just at the time he did that, Barbara's son was busy putting a puzzle together. Barbara had protected him and said, "He can finish the puzzle. You cannot pull it from him." "I'll sit under the dining table. You'll see. I won't come out," said the boy. Just a moment after he got under the table, Barbara's son finished the puzzle. He said, "OK, I'm all done. You can have it."

Ah! Now the boy had a tool! Magic! "Any time I want something, all I have to do is go sit under the dining table!"

It didn't work the next time and he was infuriated because he really thought he had magic power. "All I have to do is sit under the table and everything will come right."

Mythical consciousness comes into the child a bit later, where the child really connects with the archetypal myths. They're not fully rational, it's not a personal magic as on the magical level, but it's personal myth taken into its connection with the archetype.

This evolves into rational consciousness. In rational consciousness, everything is based on what's logical. There's no possibility of intuition. There's no room for the way things feel, just what can I detect from my own senses? Many of your politicians are very much ingrained in rational consciousness. Visionaries may suggest to them, use your imagination, think "beyond the box" as it is sometimes said, but they can't. They're just not ready to do so. Show me, I want to see it, feel it, taste it, smell it. Only that. Rational consciousness certainly has its uses, but it's fairly limited.

This is all within the gross state of consciousness and the active body here is the etheric body. The etheric level, the whole etheric template and all the etheric bodies relate to the gross state of being: magical, mythical, and rational consciousness. The subtle state begins to open. It's not like flights of stairs where you get off on an elevator and you're on one floor and the next floor and the next floor, but rather like a winding stairway. You approach the next level. You come to it and you go a step, and two, and 3 steps beyond. It's a movement.

So out of that rational consciousness, subtle consciousness begins to open. All of you in this room have experienced subtle consciousness or you would not be here. That doesn't mean you may not be highly rational, and some of you in your work need to be rational. But, I turn to K here, as a veterinarian you've got to be very precise, very rational, but I would imagine that very often when you treat an animal, you're using your intuition, not just the rational mind but the intuition. Am I correct? Yes.

I used you as an example because the medical profession needs to be so precise with blood tests and X-rays, tests that can give very precise material data. But that's not the whole picture. Subtle consciousness is vital.

How many of you interpret your dreams or reflect on your dreams sometimes? This is the subtle level of consciousness. Vision logic consciousness. Remember, it's still logic, there's still the rational as part of it. But there's also the opening into all that that cannot be seen, but only filtered through the non-material senses. So the move into subtle consciousness is the move into trust of the non-material senses.

This is the beginning of the opening of the astral body. Astral and high astral. I'm just drawing a rough map for you here, don't worry too much about these bodies, as yet. Vision logic consciousness opens further into psychic consciousness. Psychic, as in the way that you may hear your own guidance, that you may within meditation envision something clearly, have a clear-seeing of it even though materially it's not there. The opening of the psychic level.

And further on, fully into the subtle level. No human can exist on that level cut off from the gross level. There are a lot of people in institutions who are trying to do that, to live on the psychic level, for example, in denial of the gross level. But both are real. We can't prefer one to the other. It's just as unbalanced to stay lost in the gross as to stay lost in the subtle.

We move on. Remember I'm capsulizing here. Barbara will find the transcript and make sure you all have access to it, because we talked about this at much greater length.

Subtle consciousness opens into causal consciousness. The first experience of the causal level is what we call Christ or Buddha consciousness. Of course, in non-Christian, non-Buddhist countries, it's given a different name. But that's a common term for it. This is the first level of consciousness where one fully opens into the divinity of one's self and of all that is, and begins to see divinity in a less dualistic way. I say less dualistic because there is still something that observes. There's not full knowing of the self yet as fully non-dual with That Which Is. But there's a deep seeing into the nature of this highest level of being, just the very small bit of the observer that's separated and watching it all.

Causal consciousness moves into high causal and what we call non-dual consciousness, and it's at that point that every possibility of a dual self and other collapses. There is only That Which Is in all its many aspects.

Most of you cannot and will not be able to hold that non-dual consciousness stably for long periods of time. Most of you in this circle, I do not know all of you, but most of you have experienced glimmers of that non-dual consciousness through your meditation, and through your spiritual practice.

Remember, we are not goal-oriented. We are not trying to create a breakthrough where suddenly you rest fully and eternally in non-dual consciousness. Rather, we're just opening doors. Here are the concentric circles, not caught in this small space, but seeing the possibilities, moving out, moving out, moving out, moving out. If you move out far enough, it comes back together. Can you see that? Picture the person who is walking and dropping trash on the trail. He looks down, sees the trash at his feet and picks it up. Then he looks back and sees the trail of trash. Duality says, "Not mind; I am here only." Nonduality says, "I must care for the whole trail as I am directly connected to it," but it does not feel shame for the trail, only responsibility to attend.

So the more you expand, the less you hold identification with the personal self. And yet you are still responsible for this personal self and must take care of it. But as you expand out, you start to know the enormity of what you are, the power of what you are. In a sense, you come back to the very young baby with its magical consciousness, but matured at this point, having moved out from the knowing of power into the knowing of the ability to hold this power in a loving way and co-create with it. So the baby simply knows the power and backs off from it, wisely so. The very mature adult knows the power and knows the potential of that power, bursting outward.

This takes us into being and non-being. Do you know the lines from the Heart Sutra? "Form is emptiness, emptiness is form." What do they mean? How can form be empty? How can emptiness have form?

Let me hear some of your thoughts about this. What do these lines mean to you?

Q: This reminds me of the basic principle of life, that the electron is both matter and wave, and it is both at the same time. In our own limited minds we would mutually exclude such opposites, but we are forced to accept both realities at the same time. So for me it is the same thing, that matter is formlessness and formlessness is matter.

Aaron: I bow to your wisdom. That is a beautiful answer. Thank you. Would others like to add anything to it? Others may experience it in the same way as Q, and also have a different metaphor for it.

Q: I think it depends on what aspect you tune into. Depending on what angle you look at something, it becomes very different, yet all the same.

Aaron: Thank you. Others? (no)

Envision a cup, a bowl. Is it empty? It's filled with space, it's filled with air. If we were to pour water in it, the air would have to go out.

In order for there to be a container of water, there's got to be a container. If we had a hose and just brought it in and kept hosing, it would fill the room. The room would become the container.

If we were to pour tea into the cup, which is the cup of tea? Is it the vessel or is it the tea? Without the vessel, can you have a cup of tea? Without the tea, can you have a cup of tea? They co-participate with each other.

We speak in meditation practice of the conditioned realm. Within this conditioned realm, everything arises out of conditions and ceases when the conditions cease. It's very easy to see. The water and the cup arose out of the conditions that there is water coming through the plumbing and into the faucet. The faucet was turned on, the cup held below, and now we have a cup of water. I don't want to affirm or deny a Big Bang theory for the start of the universe; let us just recognize that something cannot come from nothing. There's got to be something in order for there to be something else.

Everything arises out of conditions, it's impermanent. When the conditions are present, it will arise. If a little ant crawled on your leg, there would be a tickling sensation. When the ant goes, eventually the tickling sensation will stop. If another ant comes along, it may tickle again. It all arises from conditions. The tickling sensation doesn't come from a self. Rather, there are nerve endings and the tickling sensation is a result of the presence of the ant, the nature of human skin with nerve endings, the presence of a consciousness that's able to perceive sensation, and out of that comes the sensation of tickling.

We speak also of the Unconditioned, that Unborn, Undying, that which exists without conditions. And yet, is this a paradox or not? I've just said nothing can exist without conditions. Nothing comes from nothing. From what did the Unconditioned arise? We need to phrase it in a different way. We can not say it arose. So we come back to a very conventional phrasing, That Which Is. Unborn, undying, is simply existent. We sometimes call this Ground of Being, or That Which Is. In some religions they may call it God, or G-d, in others they may call it Unconditioned, or Divine. Many names for that which cannot be named.

Out of this essence of being, let's look at your charts, the lower chart, cosmic template. This simple being and doing-ness, is That-Which-Is. Everything is possible because that is. Because That-Which-Is is, everything is possible. For those who do not believe in any kind of God, or that there is anything beyond the conditioned realm, I have no answer because I cannot prove the existence of That-Which-Is. But when you begin to trust the direct experience of higher consciousness, you touch it directly, and then you know it. This is.

Anybody who has ever experienced the energy in one's own or another's body, something you can't see as you see blood moving through the veins if you have the right tools, or blood seeping through a wound in the skin, you have experienced at the subtle level. What is this energy? Where did it come from? It's an expression of what I'm calling That Which Is. The blood is also an expression of That-Which-Is, but different in that it is known directly through the physical senses. The experience of energy is more subtle.

Some of you have seen what we call Ground Luminosity in your meditation, the innate radiance of everything. The aura is one small expression of Ground Luminosity in energetic expression. That-Which-Is gives off a certain radiance, and it gives off a sound. People call it nada, the sound of silence. How many of you have heard that sound? A few. Some others of you probably have and simply don't know the name. This is the sound that is behind all sound. When you're sitting very still, you begin to hear a sound much like cicadas singing in the background. It's not a sound that arises and falls away. Rather, it's a sound that always exists, but you come to hear it and then come away from it. It is like looking out the window into the daylight and then turning your back on the daylight. The daylight remains. You come and go from it.

Clarifying it now, have more of you been aware of it? Yes, a few more. I think if you pay attention, now that you've heard me name it, you'll think, "Oh, that's what that is. I thought it was tinnitus. I'm hearing that." So there is this, let us call it the great cosmic OM, that's another name for it. There is nada, this sound of silence.

This emptiness is full, it's alive, it's vital. It's the match at the moment when you struck it, before the flame bursts out. Do you know that moment? You strike the match and there's a tiny pause before it bursts into flame. That readiness and potential, which is grounded in That-Which-Is, expressing itself into the world in so many ways. It takes form.

That form is nothing but the emptiness out of which it expresses. By emptiness, we don't mean void, simply That-Which-Is, empty of any separate self. That non-dual core of being that we come to know through its expressions as energy, as sound, as light, as scent like honeysuckle, a very powerful scent. Taste. Those of you who are energy workers, do you know the energy that I am talking about? Let's call it core energy. It's not the movement of the energy through this or that meridian, it simply is the ground, it's the place where you are when you center yourself. Do you understand what I'm saying? A few yes, a few no. I'm approaching this with as many different metaphors as possible because some of you will have seen the lights, some will have heard nada, some will have experienced the energy.

Under "cosmic template" in our chart, the Ever-Perfect, we can touch it but cannot connect it to the relative plane. It's as if a film goes across. Picture a pure spring of water underground. Where does it come from? It's just the groundwater of the earth. There is the place just before the spring reaches the surface where it retains its perfect purity. As soon as it bubbles out of the depths, it touches the air, it touches the soil, it combines itself with other things, but while it's underground, it's pure spring water. If you reach in with a pot to dip out water, you also bring the whole earth plane with all its impurities into the pure water. You can't touch it directly and retain that purity. But its outer expression is readily available.

Of course I'm speaking here as a metaphor; that pure spring is not the Unconditioned. But the image holds true. The spring corresponds to emptiness, the empty that is full, ready to burst forth into expressed being. "Form is emptiness; emptiness is form."

This emptiness that I was speaking of, empty of any separation but not empty of essence, it IS, it's vital, it's alive, it's full, it's rich, it's explosive. It's everything. But not yet in form. "The earth was formless. And then a form was brought forth." So the Biblical teachings tell us. This is a metaphor for the whole co-creation of life on earth. Emptiness into form. And what is that form but the emptiness itself? What is the water from the fresh spring, even though it has been touched by the pollutants of the mundane world, but the fresh spring water?

If the spring bubbles up from the surface and tumbles in a stream down the mountain, if you walk down the mountain and 15 minutes downhill, you're thirsty, but cattle have been wading in there, the water is muddy, it doesn't look pure, are you going to have to climb back up to the spring? Where is that perfect water? Of course you want to filter it; you don't want to drink the mud, you want to drink the water. But the perfect water is right there, where else would it be?

The That-Which-Is expressing into form, the That-Which-Is retains its innate perfection. The outer form is given by the conditions of the mundane realm. Your work as human beings is to be a bridge. Am I repeating my words of last year? I do want to remind you. Your work is to be a bridge, to hold that Ever-Perfect, and to hold the mundane, and to bring them together. You cannot live in the Ever-Perfect and you cannot live without the Ever-Perfect. You are a bridge.

So your spiritual work is to know the form and the emptiness and to break through any idea that they are dual with one another. This is all this handout is about, bringing in together the gross consciousness, the subtle, the causal, and that beyond the causal, and getting to know the different bodies as you experience them in your daily life so that you are more aware of when you are functioning within the mundane body, when you're functioning within the astral body, for example.

Dreams are usually part of the astral level of being. If you perhaps had a dream that you were naked and you woke up, did you get up and put on some heavy clothes? Of course not. You knew it was a dream. You were functioning on the astral level in the dream, and now waking up on the bed, your nightclothes are just right. This was a dream.

This is a very simplistic example. But you can see that it's important to know when you're in the etheric level and when you're in the astral level. You can't take one for the other.

Do you know what lucid dreaming is? It's that point in the dream where awareness is able to say, "Ah, this is a dream. The dragon is chasing me and I'm dreaming. I can keep running in terror. I can stop and turn around and say, "No, I'm not playing this game any more." It becomes very clear to the dreamer this is a dream. Awareness distinguishes the body that is at the primary level of experience in that moment. We begin to direct our dreams, to take command of our dreams. Dream material still arises from the astral level, but it is not the mundane mind but the superconscious mind, that beyond the astral level, which is able to address the dream material and bring it into balance.

When you do it on the dream level a few times, then in your daily life there can come a change in relationship with those figurative dragons that are chasing you, negative people in your life. For example, you learn how to say no to them as you did in the dream. So you practice in the dream.

My point here is simply that it's very clear when it's mundane and when it's astral. It is less clear, perhaps, beyond the astral. Have any of you had what you commonly call a transpersonal experience? Maybe I should ask it differently: has anybody not had such an experience? You don't really have to answer; I don't want to put you in a place where you may feel embarrassed. But I think all of you at some point have had an experience that we would call transpersonal experience or a transcendent experience.

When you have that kind of experience, suddenly you experience the physical body still there and the astral body, but you know the immensity of being and your interconnection with all that is.

So I view our work in the coming weeks to get to know these levels of being from direct experience, starting tonight with the etheric body. Let's read these lower labels together.

Would you read them out loud, M you start.

Q: "Physical body: The actual manifest physical form at a level of the single cell <lost to background noise> collection of cells we call body."

Aaron: Somebody else pick it up.

Q: "Physical etheric body. This is the first energetic level of the physical body. It is the first layer of the aura. It is the energetic level of the gross state. The physical structure cannot exist without this energy field."

Aaron: Is there anybody that needs further explanation of that? I will be happy to speak further to it if there's need. Please don't be shy. Okay; then we'll go on. The emotional body.

Q: "Emotional body. Usual meaning: the auric field of the emotional body follows the outline of the physical body. The emotional body is not just the emotions but the energetic background to the emotions and the expressed emotions."

Aaron: Any questions about that one? Request for further words about it? Do you understand what I mean when I say it's not just the emotions but the energetic background? When there is anger there is both the reverberation of anger in the body and the energy of anger, for example. Reading on, mental body.

Q: "Mental body. Usually meaning, this also has an energetic component. Mental body is not just the thoughts but the energetic background to the thoughts and the expressed ideas."

Aaron: This becomes a bit more complex. In your meditation practice, some of you have observed the arising of a thought. For those who are more beginners with vipassana, you simply note "thinking is happening", as remembering, planning, fantasy, some kind of thinking. But as your practice deepens, you begin to notice the blip of impulse energy that precedes the thought. Bring attention to that very beginning. It's an energetic thrust that just precedes the thought.

I'd like you to watch this "blip" of "beginning" this week as you meditate. When thoughts arise, see if you can watch them carefully enough to see them form before they emerge into a solid object of a plan or a memory or an impulse. Just that energetic blip, I'm about to have a thought. And of course, "I'm about to have a thought" is a thought. So this is hard to do! But watch the impulse energy that precedes the thought so that you get to know the etheric and astral levels of the mental body. The thought itself is the mundane, etheric object. The energy that precedes the thought is the etheric template. The place where you see the thought as connected to All-That-Is, just emerging out from that fullness, that is the astral level.

Q: "The high etheric body. "The energetic level of the combined mental and emotional bodies."

Aaron: Here you'll note that when a thought or an emotion arises, it's hard to separate them. You can't say, "That's a thought and this is an emotion." If planning starts, there's usually some emotion along with the planning. If a memory comes, there's some emotional content to it. So what we call the higher etheric body is simply that container that acknowledges this is both thought and emotion, both on the mundane and beyond. Not just the mundane thought but the energetic content or material around the thought object.

There's a Buddhist scripture, Abhidhamma, a very, very precise scripture, which notes various levels and states of the consciousness. The word "citta" is used. Citta is consciousness. Citta is used in such as the eye touching the object, the singing bowl here, and "seeing consciousness" arises. That citta, that particular form of consciousness, seeing consciousness, arises dependent on conditions. And then it breaks it down very precisely into that which is happening within the eye and that which is happening within the mind, that which is happening within the energy field, which are all accompaniments to this seeing consciousness. These create the texture of that seeing consciousness. (For some very precise material about citta and texture, cetasika, see Aaron to Barbara: Consciousness or Awareness.)

Do you understand what I'm saying? I don't want to get too esoteric here. I just want you to understand that this is not New Age kind of thinking but something that was defined 2500 years ago and articulated to perfection then. And I'm not going to ask you to study Abhidhamma, which is a very dense text, just to see, "How is it in my experience? Can I begin to touch on the physical, mental, the energetic?"

At this point you don't need any of these terms, the terms are just a map. If you're driving down the road and I tell you this is the first town you'll come to, and it's name, and this is the second town and the third town, I don't want you to look at the map and memorize the names of the towns, I want you to get into the town and see what it's like there.

So these are the towns of your body, of your mind, of your emotions. I really want you to begin to discern the relationship between the physical, mental, emotional on the gross level and on the energetic level. Just watch it. See what you have to learn about it. There's nothing special I want you to see, just watch it.

Etheric template, will somebody read that.

Q: "Etheric template. This is the first entry to the subtle state. It carries the template for the causal level of the mental, emotional and physical bodies but is not based there. It is subject to distortion. It is part of a network with the Ever-Perfect template, cosmic, the astral template, and the lower template, which is the etheric template."

Aaron: This is a convoluted way of saying that the pure stream still exists 10 miles downstream. The etheric template carries the template for the causal level. And of course if it carries the template for the causal level, it carries the template for the Ever-Perfect. And yet it's expressing on the mundane level. It's the first place where we have that bridge connecting the mundane and the Ever-Perfect.

Again, don't worry too much about the term but do read and re-read that statement about the etheric template and just reflect: at what point am I perhaps touching that, breaking out of this mundane level and into a bigger space?

So I want you to do just 2 things: to become more aware of these lower bodies, and second, using our stream analogy, to watch the place the place where we recognize all of a sudden, "This is the pure spring, right here. This is it. This muddy, gunky water, this is the pure spring." Here you stop creating the duality of "This is gunky and muddy," and "This is pure."

Watch how you do that in your lives when there's a thought, for example, a judging thought, and then the idea, "I shouldn't be judging. Judgment is bad. I want to be good. I won't judge any more." Watch how you do that. Then you're creating a duality of the stream that's flowing through and picking up mud and pollutants, and the spring.

I remind you you're not going to drink from that stream until you filter it. You're not going to dive into your judgment or anger and drink it up into you. You're going to filter it. You filter it with attention, with caring, with your intention toward lovingkindness. So you filter negative thought. But don't create a duality of negative thought and loving thought. Begin to see how they come together.

That's all I wish to say tonight. Please bring these handouts back each week. We'll make a few more available that you can look at here if you forget them. We put them in plastic sleeves to make it easier for you to keep them. We'll be referring to this frequently through the first weeks of class.

We have just a few minutes for questions tonight because we spent a lot of time with introductions. Most weeks my intention is that we spend a lot of time talking together. Please come prepared with questions, with experiences. My request to each of you is that you work with a vipassana practice. You're welcome to be in the class if you don't practice vipassana but you won't get as much out of it. Even just a few times a week in short sittings. Vipassana is, certainly it's not the only form of meditation but it's a very deep grounding meditation that lets you see things as they are. So it's a very important tool to getting into these experiences from an experiential rather than a mental level. We don't want it to be abstract.

As you work with these lower bodies, from this list of the bodies at the bottom, and you begin to see the interconnection of the bodies, you might take it into your meditation and just pause and reflect there on the spot: in what way is this information useful to me? What am I learning here? How is it useful to begin to see the interconnections between the physical, mental, and emotional bodies themselves and the energetic level of those bodies? In short, can that seeing lead me into recognizing the Ever-Perfect in whatever has arisen?

I want to repeat that, it's important. Can the deeper experience of the bodies and the energetic level of the bodies, and the interconnection of the bodies, lead me into a deeper seeing of the innate perfection of whatever mind or body or emotional experience has arisen?

A few minutes for your questions. We'll try throughout this class to be sure we leave here by 9:30.

Q: Can you give an example of the etheric template from everyday life? Have an experience in it in everyday life?

Aaron: Here's one that I hope is consonant with your energy healing work. You're walking barefoot and you step on a tack. Ouch! It stings. The skin is punctured. It's bleeding. We cannot deny that. We wash it off, we put a Band-Aid on it. But on another level, the Ever-Perfect skin is there. The Ever-Perfect foot is there. Do you understand that? Do the rest of you understand it? On one level, it's damaged. On another level, it's whole, it's always whole. The etheric template reconnects you to that wholeness.

If you relate to it only as damaged, it's easy to bring in fear and contraction. Then you move into that energy that we call "fix-it" energy, with a lot of turmoil. What am I going to do? Fix it!

If we relate to it only as whole, we don't attend to it. Maybe it's not just a puncture, maybe blood is pouring out. You've got to take care of it. How do I find that balance? Not ignoring the mundane experience, whether it's a physical one of the puncture of the foot or an emotional one of puncturing of the ego, somebody saying something rude to you. Feelings of humiliation or anger coming up. You have to attend to them, and you have to hold the Ever-Perfect.

So the work that we'll be doing here is just another map, helping you better to see how these 2 levels exist. Last year we spoke a lot about the 3 kayas, named in Buddhist teaching as the dharmakaya, the Ever-Perfect; nirmanakaya, the form body; and sambhogakaya. (Please see Aaron on Dzogchen for more on the kayas.) We spent a lot of time trying to understand the nature of the sambhogakaya. You're really doing the same work, just using a different articulation of it. I hope it will help those people who didn't fully get it the first time around to get it at a deeper level. Does that answer your question?

Q: About your analogy of the stream flowing downstream to the cows in the muddy water, and the idea that in order to get clean water you must go all the way back up to the spring, which I am reading as the Ever-Perfect.

Aaron: You do not have to go all the way to the spring.

Q: As a practical matter, you only need to go upstream from the cows.

Aaron: Practically, you get out your water filter and you strain out, use a good water filter, you strain out the dirt.

Q:… go a little bit back upstream from the cows.

Aaron: You're instantly back upstream as soon as you strain out that material.

Q: How far back do you have to go?

Aaron: Nowhere! You strain it out right where you're standing. If somebody says something that brings up anger in you, you don't have to withdraw yourself back to a place that wasn't angry. Rather, you work with the anger right here in this moment, "filtering it"filtering it with kindness, filtering it with wisdom, until you uncover that Ever-Perfect, that which is innately not angry. It's right there with anger. You don't drink the anger, you put the anger aside and you hold the pure water. Does that clarify it? (yes)

My blessings to you, then. It is time to end. I will depart the body and let Barbara return for just a minute before the class ends. She will speak to you about anything of a practical nature. I thank each of you for being with me tonight, and I look forward to our times here together.

(taping ends)

Excerpt from the Heart Sutra:

O Sariputra, form is no other than emptiness,
emptiness no other than form.
Form is emptiness, emptiness form.
The same is true of feeling, thought, impulse and consciousness.
O Sariputra, all dharmas are empty.
They are not born nor annihilated.
They are not defiled nor immaculate.
They do not increase nor decrease.
So in emptiness no form, no feeling, no thought, no impulse, no consciousness.
No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind;
no form, sound, smell, taste, touch or objects of mind.
No realm of sight; no realm of consciousness.
No ignorance nor extinction of ignorance,
no old age and death, nor extinction of them.
No suffering, no cause of suffering, no path to lead out of suffering;
no knowledge, no attainment, no realization
for there is nothing to attain.

Copyright © 2005 by Barbara Brodsky