April 16, 2011 Saturday, Seattle, Aaron's Dharma Talk

Sub base story (presence with anger)/ shift in consciousness/ modeling higher consciousness through vipassana/ change in the world/ saying no with compassion/ path/ levels of awakening/ attending to negativity with love/ path of practice

Aaron: My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron.

Why are you here, both in your incarnation, in these bodies, in these lives? Here at the retreat? Wouldn't it have been pleasant to spend a weekend lounging in bed, sleeping late, reading the paper, or going to a movie? Maybe you like to play a game of poker or gin rummy with your friends? Why are you here?

I call you “angels in earthsuits.” You are all divine beings, a core of that divine unconditioned radiance, and, undeniably, you are here in these earthsuits, bodies-- physical bodies, emotional bodies, mental bodies-- that have a lower vibration and sometimes are challenging.

You moan, “I don't like this earthsuit.” You don't like your own specific earthsuit, you wish you had a different one, or you don't like any earthsuit at all. “Why did I come?” You came because you have an intention to grow and learn. Learn what? Compassion; yes, wisdom, but especially compassion.

We talk in Buddhist terms about awakening but you're already awake, at one level. You may not realize yet that you're awake but there is an intention to arrive at that realization and to be ready to bear the responsibilities that realization brings with it.

If you're with a group of people who are freezing and you know how to build a fire in the wilderness with wet wood, you'll feel a responsibility to come forth with that skill to build a fire so people can warm up. If you feel, “I really don't want to have to be responsible for others,” probably you'll never develop the skill to build the fire with wet wood. Then you won't feel impelled to do it.

The risk is, “What if I say I can build a fire with wet wood and then I can't get it going because the wood is so wet?” And then the human ego feels embarrassed, feels shame or chagrin, feels guilt because people are still shivering, feels itself to be a failure. There is that ego level of the self. So you come to believe in limits.

To open to your true awakened nature is to say, “Okay, I am ready for the responsibility that comes with this awakening.” We have what is called in Buddhism the bodhisattva vow, which makes a very broad, strong statement: “My intention is to save all beings.” How can you save all beings?

You start with yourself, and you have to understand what “save” means. Save means literally to realize your true nature and learn how to express it in the world so that what pours out of you is increasingly less the ego and increasingly more this innate radiance.

You don't have to get it perfect. We start with the intention. When people take the bodhisattva vow, it's a statement, “I am ready to undertake this,” I don't even want to call it responsibility, “to undertake this joy, to undertake this wonder of beginning to express the full truth of what I am, not to impress others but simply to let that light shine into the world; to help hold space for others; to help light the way for others; to help support others.”

So people come to me and say, “How can I take a bodhisattva vow when I'm not enlightened? When I'm afraid?”  I would be concerned if you were not afraid, that you did not recognize the enormity of the undertaking, and took it lightly. The ego , the small self, is afraid, but that which is aware of fear is not afraid. Awareness takes the vow and then carries the small ego self along.

Because you take the vow, because you start with the intention, it heightens your willingness to be uncomfortable sometimes. If you've not taken the vow to help beings, you're out in the woods and people call on you, “You know how to light a fire with two sticks, you can do that,” and you say, “Oh, I don't know how to do that, I'm just going to that cave over there. It's big enough for one person. I'm going to sit there and try to stay out of the storm,” then you don't have to risk shame and failure. If you hold the importance of the vow in your heart, you know you can't go off into the cave and leave the others shivering and soaked. You have to do what you can to aid them.

Each of you doubts your capacity; I think that's the hardest part, because you see the areas of weakness. You see the human in yourself. And instead of acknowledging the human with an open heart, you chastise the human. “I should be stronger, wiser, more compassionate, better, more skilled.” You focus on your weak points and how seldom you pay attention to the strengths, to the beauty.

Once in a class I asked people to make a list of personal qualities that they admired about themselves, and personal qualities in themselves that they found challenging. I asked that the lists be of equal length. If you write 5 qualities that you are challenged by in the self, I want 5 qualities you admire in the self, or 10 and 10.

People had no problem writing the list of things that they struggled with in themselves. They had a very hard time coming up with a list of what they admired. What we found was that somebody would write, “I'm generous. That's something I admire in myself.” And then a memory would come up of a time when there was selfishness. “No, I'm selfish. Well, I can't be generous and selfish, and I see how often I'm selfish, how often there are self-centered thoughts. Cross out ‘I'm generous.'” If the generosity isn't 100% you feel that you can't put it in that column. If the selfishness is only 10%, it gets written down. But none of you are selfish 100% of the time or even 50% of the time. Why can't you give yourself credit for your generosity?

None of you are angry 100% of the time. It may come up 10% of the time, feelings of resentment, of bitterness. How often the loving heart is there, but it doesn't seem perfect, it's not 100% so you don't give yourself credit for it.

Then when we talk about the bodhisattva vow or its equivalent, simply the intention to be of service to beings, you say, “Oh, but Aaron, I'm not ready. I'm still selfish and afraid and angry.” Forget that! When I say forget it, I don't mean ignore it-- attend to it but stop being ruled by it. Self-centeredness, anger, impatience, greed, these are the results of conditions. If the conditions are present, these will arise. Just because they arise doesn't mean you have to be caught by them, they simply have arisen from conditions. You do not change what arises by attacking it; rather, you note, “Anger, fear, judgment, greed, these have arisen in me. They are the product of conditions. How shall I relate to what has arisen?”

The work here is to deepen in kindness and compassion and to deepen in wisdom, to see that these mind states have arisen out of conditioning, are impermanent and not self. They will pass away. Hatred only enhances hatred. These are the Buddha's famous words in the Dhammapada, a beautiful Buddhist scripture. “Hate will never resolve hatred, only love will resolve hatred.”

These words to not mean “Do not allow hatred or anger or greed to arise,” only, when they arise can there be compassion for the human in whom they arose because that changes the flow of habitual energy. Instead of there being a return of hatred to anger, anger becomes a catalyst for compassion. The heart opens with love. It's a very powerful teaching.

Barbara tells a beautiful story that really is her story, but I'm not going to pull her out of this state for her to tell it, so I know she will excuse me if I tell it.

In the ‘60s she was involved in a lot of non-violent direct action for peace and human rights. In this incident she was picketing outside a nuclear submarine plant, where they built the submarines, and the workers there were quite threatened by the demonstarations. Those were their jobs. The demonstrators were saying, “Don't build nuclear submarines.”

Barbara was young, 17 or 18, new to working with non-violent direct action. She made a promise, as everybody participating had, not to respond with any kind of violence. A man who was drunk and belligerent came up and pulled the sign she was holding, threw it on the ground, and pushed her hard enough that she fell to the ground,.

As soon as she hit the ground she did as she had been taught and just laid there, protecting her face with her arms. He started kicking at her. She could tell right away he did not intend to break ribs, to break bones; he was just humiliating her and expressing his anger. She could hear then, remember. So he was saying abusive things to her and kicking her, and so much anger came up in her.

She judged herself, “I'm supposed to be here being peaceful. I shouldn't be angry. I mustn't be angry,” so she closed her heart to herself. Finally they pulled him off, took him away. His last words to her were, “I'll see you next week if you're not too scared.” And of course she was scared.

She had some wonderful counseling from very experienced non-violent leaders. She came back the next week. The same scene replayed itself, identical, ending with Barbara lying on the ground, heart closed to herself, angry at herself; the man being pulled away and repeating the same words. This demonstration started to draw many people. By the third week there was a large group gathered to watch this dance.

It went on for 7 weeks. Each week she came back; each week she did not fight back when he pushed her. Finally the 7th week she was lying on the ground and covering her head, feeling the anger, and suddenly she thought, “Why am I condemning myself so much? After all, I'm just lying here holding space for both of us. If anger arises, maybe that's natural. Maybe I don't have to hate the anger. The anger is because I am afraid.” So there was some compassion for her fear and for her anger. And suddenly the insight: “He's afraid, too, that's why he's doing this to me.”

Her whole energy field shifted at that point and the man felt it. He stopped kicking, nudging with his foot is a more accurate term. He stopped speaking hateful words. There was a silence, a stillness. She looked up at him and they made eye contact for the first time. He said to her, “Why do you keep coming back?” And she said, “Because my heart says I need to. Why do you keep coming back?” And he said, “The same. Let's talk.” And he reached his hand out to her and helped her stand up.

He and some of his work colleagues and Barbara and some of her colleagues went off to a local place and sat around a table and had some coffee, tea, whatever, and talked. And for quite awhile thereafter, every Saturday afternoon there was the picketing going on outside the submarine plant and there was a group talking, engaged in dialogue, really hearing each other.

It took her 7 weeks for it to penetrate that she did not need to condemn the anger, that the anger could be a catalyst for compassion. That she could truly open her heart to herself and that that was the path, not only to her own healing but to the healing of the whole situation. It was very powerful. It began a process of change. A number of men working at the plant took people up on their willingness to help them find jobs outside of the plant. It didn't mean they stopped making submarines, only there was a questioning, “Why are we making these subs? Can there be any deterrent value if we would not use them, and if used, we would destroy the world.”

It's so important that you not be afraid of your anger but that you begin to recognize that anger gives you the opportunity to explore how you relate habitually to anger, and to learn, “I can relate in a different way.” It's all possible.

You are here learning this, as I said earlier, literally as old souls because you were willing to come into the incarnation and learn this for yourself so you could then teach it to others. There is a literal transition of consciousness happening in the world now. A few hundred years ago much of your Earth was in a place of what we call magical and mythical consciousness, a very early level of consciousness. Consciousness evolves. Much of the world moved into a rational consciousness. Magical consciousness has the kind of belief, “If we do these rituals, God will make it rain,” or “God will help us win the war.” Rational consciousness takes it a step further and says, “We're responsible here. If we want our plants to survive, we've got to find a way to water them because it may not rain. God will not help us win the war, it's up to us.” It's still a very earthbound consciousness, very logical. Much of your world is still in that rational level of consciousness.

On page 261 of Cosmic Healing is a chart on consciousness, part of a whole chapter on consciousness. Therein I describe states and stages of consciousness, beginning with Gross consciousness, which is magical and mythical and rational, and finally evolves into vision logic consciousness. That's the level where you start to visualize; maybe there's something beyond the purely rational. Gross consciousness gives way to subtle consciousness at the ending of vision logic, and what we'd call psychic and subtle consciousness. You become increasingly aware of all the energy in the world, of everything beyond the self. Then causal consciousness opens, which is Christ/Buddha Consciousness, and finally the move beyond the causal, to non-dual awareness.

You are all moving through this transition. Those of the world that you think of as fundamentalists who believe, “My way is right, we must kill everybody else,” these are very much caught in gross consciousness, often in magical and mythical consciousness.

This is the consciousness that you expect in young children. The three year old is very much in magical or mythical consciousness; He/ she believes if he or she is angry at somebody and they get sick, they feel guilty, “I did it. It's because I was angry.” They like rituals. They like routines. They want everything to be just so. And we expect that, that's a normal stage of development for the young child. We don't try to hurry them through it. We allow them to move through it at an appropriate pace.

If the two year old wants both cookies on the table, grabs at them and says, “Mine! Mine!” you don't hit the 2 year old and you don't try to lecture the 2 year old in depth on sharing to install some kind of morality, “You should want to share,” you simply say, “No. There are two children here, you can each have one. One for you and one for you.” If the one child has a temper tantrum, you just let him have a temper tantrum. You hold him, you make space for the energy. You know they'll grow through this stage.

The important thing here is you don't condemn the child for it and you don't try to foist your perhaps non-dual consciousness, or higher level of consciousness, on her. You don't force that upon anyone. The child is not ready for it. He can't understand it yet. But you do say no firmly.

In your world today you have not only individuals but whole countries that are still in a less evolved, less high-vibration level of consciousness. One of the challenges in the world today is that those of you in a higher, or a more evolved, level of consciousness, are trying to talk to the 2 and 3 year olds of the world as if they could understand you, and they can't understand you. You need to talk to them in the same firm, loving language that you would use for the actual 2 or 3 year old. That's not talking down to them; simply you don't beat them with a stick and you don't lecture them on morality. They're not ready to understand. But you say no with firm compassion. “No, you cannot do that.”

As you learn to speak to those who are less evolved in consciousness in this way, rather than trying to punish them for being where they are, you begin to model the higher level of consciousness that you want them to emulate. They cannot learn love through your negativity and fear and hatred, they can only learn love through your love. But your love doesn't say, “Okay, I won't hurt you, kill me.” How do you take a firm stand without attacking, without hatred?

This is where your vipassana practice comes in because until you learn these skills for yourself and the negative thoughts that you have within the self, how can you practice them with others?

So in your meditation, each time anger comes up, judgment, fear, greed, impatience, negative contraction, and you watch to see, “How do I relate to this?” you open a doorway. You start to shift the habitual patterning, a reaction toward negative thought, into one of firm compassion that can say no with kindness. “No, I will not enact my anger on this other person. But I also will not enact that anger on myself. I will not attack myself that the conditions are not yet purified and that anger came up.” You purify the conditions exactly in this way, with love.

(Aaron tells Barbara's story of the restaurant sit-in and the woman in the jail, available elsewhere so not transcribed. The final line from the woman sharing the cell and who has noticed Barbara's anger, is “of course I am angry too but I also love them, and they are so afraid.” )

We begin to open our hearts to another's fear, to another's pain, see them and accept them where they are, but still say no. You become willing to take a stand, but the stand is taken from a place of compassion.

Your whole world is moving into a higher consciousness. That's what this whole idea of 2012 is about. So many people ask me, “What's going to happen in 2012?” At the end of 2012 it will be 2013! Yes, the world is undergoing vast changes because so many of you have reached a point where you are ready to shepherd in those changes, literally to bring forth, as we pointed out in this chart, you are moving into Christ and Buddha Consciousness and Non-Dual Consciousness.

This whole process started thousands of years ago. The world was in a dark place. The one that you know of as the Buddha took birth with the intention to find a pathway that could help others find their way out of that darkness. Karmically he was ready for that.

(Origins of the word “Buddha”. The word Buddha means, “the one who is awake.”)

He opened a doorway. He showed people that it was possible to realize their awakened nature. He lived in Hindu India where it was believed that people were karmically stuck where they were and that the awakened nature is something that would come many lifetimes later and almost at the whim of the gods, if only they could do this or that or that correctly, if only they could win favor by certain actions.

So he came to say, “No, you are responsible for your own destiny because you are already awake. It's not in the hands of external gods; it's in your hands. If you're willing to do this work and follow this path, you will realize your awakened nature.”

That nature is already there, it's not something you have to find. (The example of cleaning a dirty window.) The nature of the glass is pure and clear. We wash the window. We do not tear out the glass!

Your vipassana practice is a way of washing the window. It's a way of revealing the pure glass within, coming to know that true nature, and not being so self-identified with the mud. Take care of it, wash it off. And if it reappears, wash it off again.

The pure awareness practice is a way of resting in that ever-pure glass until you are very certain it's there, it's real, it's dependable. But you can't stay in that place of pure awareness holding the mud away. That's a bit like holding a screen so no more mud can splash on the glass. Then the screen gets dirty. The glass is still clean but the second piece of glass that's protecting the first is muddy.

We have to go to the root causes. What are the conditions that keep splashing this mud, that keep bringing up fear, anger, hatred, confusion? And you ask, since I cannot purify all the conditions, can I make peace with the fact that sometimes these will arise, and have these not become a factor that creates more negativity in me but a catalyst for compassion? As that compassion grows, there are fewer and fewer conditions that invite the mud. Finally the mud ceases. It does, it truly does.

Then, I'm taking only 2 of the great Masters, but the two with whom you're most familiar. Five hundred years after the Buddha's time, the one you know as the Christ was born, Jeshua. He was in a somewhat different situation than Siddhartha Gautama in that he was already fully enlightened before that birth but willing to come back into the world as what you would call a bodhisattva in service to the world.

He was there to teach several things. That the human is truly capable of living the Christ Consciousness, the fully evolved highest consciousness-- not the highest, non-dual consciousness, he didn't speak as much about non-dual consciousness. We could think of him as demonstrating his Christ Consciousness, which is one level below non-dual consciousness. Certainly he knew non-dual consciousness but what he was trying to teach people was to move into this space of unconditional love.

He moved through what you know as the crucifixion, and there's a great symbolism to that. I said each person carries his own cross. Each of you experience a crucifixion of one sort or another-- childhood abuse, loss, loneliness, body pain and distortion. Each of you carries some of these very painful experiences. They can either break you or free you. It's your choice.

The resurrection helps to symbolize that no matter what happens to us, that radiant, unlimited core of being, that pure glass, remains. It's not separate from anything else. We think of soul. The Buddha taught there was not separate soul, but he didn't say there was nothing.

In one sutra  The Buddha says to the monks, “There is an Unborn, Undying, Unchanging, Uncreated. If it were not so there would be no reason for our work.” He invites people to get to know this Unborn, Undying, of which they are a part.

If you have a vast ocean out there and you take a small cup of water and pour drops of it into the ocean, do they cease to exist? No. Can you find those drops of water again, those exact drops? No. They're part of the ocean. But nothing ceases to exist. The purity of those drops affects the purity of the ocean into which they are poured. The purity of the drops of being that you are, eventually when you move through this once-returner/non-returner/arahant stage and become fully liberated, and become simply drops of water in the vast ocean of being, the radiance and purity of what you are enhances and expands that Unconditioned.

If the Unconditioned is unlimited, that means it's unlimited. We can't think of it in terms of, how big is the Unconditioned? It's constantly expanding. We're constantly expanding it. We're constantly expanding the power of that divinity and holding the ground for that kind of unconditional love.

So Jeshua came to teach this, to teach love, to teach forgiveness, to teach the power of the human to transcend the human condition and live in the divine truth of its being. And eventually the third step of ascension, which is really no different than the arahant, fully knowing itself and becoming part of the Unconditioned.

It's all God, it doesn't matter what we call it: Unconditioned, Divine, unconditional Love, God. This is why you are here and why you are practicing. You are all capable of finding liberation in this lifetime, truly. I'm not saying all capable of becoming arahants in this lifetime-- do you know these terms?

There are 4 levels of awakening. The stream entry level is where one starts to see the bigger picture, steps out of the small ego self and starts to see a bigger picture. And finds that one can no longer hurt others because it sees that “Others are myself.” It starts to consider its actions more carefully.

We had an interesting conversation the other night about killing. You take the vow not to kill. D and J were talking about the yellowjacket nest that was between the walls so the yellowjackets were in the house and stinging the children. Barbara was talking about the mouse infestation she had in her house this winter where they were getting into everything. The food was enclosed in plastic containers but she would find mouse droppings on the plates and in the silverware drawer. It was a very unhealthy situation.

What do you do if you  take a vow not to kill. I think the important thing here is not the letter of the law, “I will never kill for any reason,” although in some lifetimes there may be a place where you have to uphold that, but to some degrees that's the fundamentalist who says “never”.

The important thing is that you deeply consider your intentions and make sure the intention is coming from the most loving place, that you never take harming another lightly in any way but you do everything possible to avoid harming another. But that sometimes you realize that not to harm another means harming yourself or others.

An example question we've tossed around many times at meetings. There's a man standing in front of you with a machine gun threatening a class of kindergartners. He's already shot the teacher so you know he really means to shoot. He doesn't know you're behind him and you have a gun. Are you going to shoot him?

You've taken a vow not to do any harm, but not to shoot him is indirectly to kill all those children. Are you willing to take on the karma of killing him in order not to have the children killed? It's not an easy question. We have to understand karma and how it works, how it works with intentionality, and here the intention is not to do harm.

(The example of the two men falling to ground with heart attacks; one is found by the thief; the other found by the heart surgeon, who attempts unsuccessful heart surgery. The thief merely ignores the sick man, steals the wallet and runs. So both men die, but the karma is very different for those who found them, one out for his own benefit only, the other trying to help another.)

Can you see how different this is? In one case there's self-centered intention, me, service to self, and in the other the full intention is to take care of another. Now, perhaps this surgeon also had a thought, “If I do this, the newspaper's going to write it up and I'll be famous. Won't that be nice?” But that's not his primary intention, his primary intention is truly to save this man. That the man is too far gone to be saved has not much to do with it. His intention is pure.

When you consider - whether it's the yellow jackets or the mice, or the people who threaten your country from another land, or the brigands, the people who would rob and rape and kill who walk your streets - you don't need to carry around a gun and say, “I'm going to shoot them all.” How are you going to relate to this kind of negativity with love? How do you learn to say no with love so that the karma behind your action is as pure and clear as is possible? Is the intention always for the highest good of all beings, always with love?

The readiness to do this comes from working with yourself with love when negativity arises. It really is that simple. When that becomes such a clear habitual pattern that any time negativity arises the first response is to open your heart with compassion and to know, “This negativity arose out of conditions. It will pass away. I will take care of it without hatred, without fear,” or if fear or hatred come, to attend to that with love, you transform yourself. Then you reveal the pure radiance of the glass. Then you move into the higher consciousness to which you are progressing, and you become models to others, capable to do the same. And this is why you have come.

If I did not believe you could move into this kind of consciousness now, I would not be here. I described what stream entry is. The once-returner is the next step, one who has purified the consciousness a bit more so that there's still karma that will draw you back but, not literally only once,  but not for many lifetimes. Much of the karma is purified. The non-returner has no more karmic need to incarnate but is still not a fully realized being. And then the arahat, who is the fully realized being. I won't go into the details now, you don't need them. If you're curious about them, look them up in those Archives that Barbara mentioned. It's all there.

Thank you for hearing me. It's been a long talk and many of you are tired... My blessings and love to you and I look forward to continuing our work together tomorrow. Thank you. Good night.

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