Thursday Night Meditation Group (J. Baraz)
July 10, 2008
Berkeley, CA

Keywords: Densities, Guidance from spirit, Unconditioned, earth/Gaia/nature, Citta/consciousness, dzogchen, dhamma, Awareness, nimitta, nada

Host, James: …He is a former Buddhist monk from many years ago and produces a depth of understanding of Buddhist practice and a wider perspective as well…

Barbara: Thank you, James…

Barbara’s combined introduction from these 4 California sessions are presented separately. It can be found on the DSC web site at

When I channel, Aaron literally incorporates into my body. People ask me where do I go–I don’t know, I’m not here. It’s not astral projection, I don’t think. I have an experience of being in a very light-filled place. It’s kind of like the experience in meditation of body (and mind?) dissolution, there’s just light, space, and Aaron uses the body. So that’s what we’re going to do now. I will take a minute to let him come in. Some of you may feel a difference between us, some of you may not.


Aaron: Good evening. My blessings love to you… a little awkward, here (the mic is right in his face). This is a microphone? Do we need this here? Yes. Okay, we’ll leave it.

I am Aaron and I thank you for this opportunity to share the dhamma with you. You are a radiant group, radiant energy coming out. When I see you, I see your bodies, but I also see spirit and energy and light. You have a physical body, I do not have a physical body, but we both have spirit bodies.

Barbara has told you a bit about me. I have lived in every culture–many cultures, probably not every, many colors of skin, female and male bodies, various religions. My final liberation was in a lifetime in which I was a vipassana practitioner, a follower of the Buddha dhamma. So I know it as a viable path to liberation. If I did not believe this was so, I would not be wasting my time here talking to you about it, nor wasting your time. But this beautiful dhamma, this will set you free.

It has been suggested that I talk to you tonight about how I as an ancient spirit view this slice of practice we call dhamma, and how that fits with the bigger picture. Are you familiar with the Buddhist teaching of the handful of leaves? Somebody asked the Buddha, do you teach us everything you know? He pointed up high into a vast forest and he said, “What I know are as the leaves of the forest,” and he reached down and picked up just a handful of leaves. He said, “What I teach is just as this handful of leaves, but this is all you need to know.”

This is true; it is all you need to know. In fact, perhaps more than you need to know. All you need to know is to be present in this moment with love. That’s really all you need to know, but it helps to learn how to be present with love.

I do see a bigger picture. The way I understand your world is in terms of what I call densities. The density is based on the vibrational energy of the being. Rock, gas, mineral, these are 1st density. Plant is 2nd density, as is animal. Human is what we call 3rd density. Beyond human there are 5 more densities, so people ask me, what about the Buddhist scheme of stream entry, the once returner, the non-returner, and the arahat?

These are not conflicting ways of understanding the universe. What is it you really need to know? Know is not the best word–what is it you really need to do or release or be in order to be free? What does freedom really mean? As long as you are creating karma, wholesome or unwholesome, that karma keeps drawing you back. We don’t have to talk about this in terms of past lives; understand it in terms of this life and each moment in this life.

If somebody says something abusive to you and you say something abusive back, that plants the seed for further angry words. When somebody says something abusive to you and you hear that person with compassion that is able to say, “No, you may not speak to me like that but I understand how angry you are,” when you’re able to open your heart to another’s pain and still refuse to be abused by the other’s pain, it shifts things. You’re no longer drawing that angry energy to the self and re-creating it.

As long as there is still the concept of a self, there is still going to be karma, but it’s easier to release wholesome than unwholesome karma, so we work with that negative habit energies, the kilesas, as part of the practice, and we work to understand the whole pattern of conditioning out of which negative habit energy arises.

Barbara spoke a bit of this pattern in her introduction. You have 5 physical sense organs and the mind. When any of these sense organs touches an object, you have contact and consciousness. Contact arises, and with contact, consciousness. Then there will be perception and feelings of pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral.

This first object, let’s say a bad smell, “Ew! It stinks!” Nose organ touches the scent and smelling consciousness comes. The feeling is unpleasant. There is perception, “skunk smell.” And anger comes up–“Who let that skunk in?” Perhaps the aversion is followed quickly by self-judgment, “I should not mind this; I should have equanimity.” This aversive energy, “I don’t want this,” is a different object. In the smell, just the smell. In the aversion to the smell, just aversion. In the judgment, “I shouldn’t be feeling aversion,” just judgment.

We see how these objects move one to another to another. You have to be careful in your practice not to get caught up in this chain of objects, the Pali word papancha. Do you know that word? It’s one of my favorite Pali words because it sounds like what it is. You start to see this proliferating mind jumping from one object to another and you have to bring yourself back to the moment. In this smell, just the smell. In angry words, just angry words. In body pain, just body pain. And then the stories that arise, just stories.

The practitioner at this level is still experiencing the experiencer as a self. There’s still the idea, “This is me smelling this skunk; this is me feeling aversion,” but that’s okay at that point. The important thing is that there is an awareness too, that objects are arising and passing away. The understanding that there’s no self in it comes later. First we focus on the whole process of how objects arise, are impermanent, and pass away. Then we start to gain insight into the reality that there’s no self behind this flow.

Once you have reached a point where when anger, for example, arises, there’s no need to be reactive to that anger, there is more ease. One experiences the tension in the belly or the chest, the flush of heat, “Tension, tension, heat, heat, heat.” But there’s no story that comes up. At this point, one is able to be with any difficult emotion with more kindness and more spaciousness, and without building stories on it. One is able to hear another’s pain or anger without taking it personally and building stories.

I said that the human is what I call 3rd density. This is the density of learning about the emptiness of self in what arises in body and mind. As long as there is a belief of a self, and reactivity to objects, there is karma that perpetuates the experiences and experiencer. Fourth density is the point where there’s no more karmic pull back into a new body, a new incarnation. Here there are still arising mind and body object as, but they are greeted with equanimity, with no contraction around the objects as they arise and pass away.

The 4th density being is fully telepathic. Now let me ask you a question: if everyone in this room were fully telepathic now, would that be okay with you? Anybody who might find that a bit uncomfortable? I see nods of “yes,” because there are still thoughts about which there is shame or judgment, still thoughts that are seen as arising from a self.

As I see it, the work of 3rd density is to reach this point of equanimity with thoughts, emotions and body sensations, equanimity with whatever arises, to the point that there’s no going out to it or backing away from it. This is what we call access concentration, the point where mind is able to see objects arise and pass away, just that, no stories about it, no fear of it, no grasping for it. Perhaps you cannot do that all the time but you become more and more able to live this centered awareness in the world, with equanimity.

The non-returner is not yet an arahat, there is not yet full liberation, but you are not caught up in the karmic field anymore. “No self; no problem,” to quote Ajahn Chah. From my perspective you are not practicing so as to not be caught up in the karmic field, you are practicing in order to learn to live your lives with more wisdom and kindness. As you learn that, the wonderful thing is that you become free. So keep the–how is it said–keep the horse in front of the cart. Your work is not just toward liberation for liberation’s sake but toward learning to live with loving kindness and compassion. And as that ability deepens, the whole sense of the separate self falls away and there you are, open into those insights that free you so that there’s no karma drawing you back into a new incarnation. These are 2 aspects to liberation; the final liberation beyond all karma, and the more immediate liberation of non-reactivity to arising and passing away.

Is there work for the non-returner still to do? By all means. At the end of 3rd density, the emotional body still exists; emotions still arise. Sutras go into great detail about which kilesas are purified with each level of liberation but basically at that point of non-returner, the emotional body still exists and emotions may still arise. But there’s equanimity with those emotions, no more stories that pull you back into this cycle of becoming.

Then the 4th density being works with his or her comrades in a group kind of experience, all telepathic, deepening in compassion., finally becoming exhausted of these emotions until there’s readiness to release them, the being then moves on to 5th and 6th density. These 5th and 6th density entities are some of the devas James talked about, these higher beings. You too will be that–are that already, really, you just haven’t realized it yet.

Of all the practices I have done in all my lifetimes, vipassana practice is the one that I hold to as the one most able to lead you to liberation. As part of the vipassana practice, I include not only the arising and passing away of conditioned objects but the direct experience of the Unconditioned. That is not something you’re going to meet 20 years hence if you just do your practice in a committed way, but as something that’s right here, now. How could the Unconditioned be anywhere else but here and now?

I want to try an exercise with you. Hold your hand in front of your eyes, just here. Wiggle the fingers. Here we have the skandhas: form, feeling, thought, impulse, consciousness: they’re all wiggling around. All we can do is to focus on these, on the body, on the thoughts, on the emotions. Stare at the fingers. Now, look through the fingers right up here at me. If you can see me, Aaron, here in Barbara’s body, you’ve really got it! Just look through. One can see the fingers are still wiggling, but also see the space beyond. Now come back to the fingers. Let them become predominant. Now go through again, into the space. Can you see that spaciousness? Yet the fingers continue.

As long as you’re holding your attention only on the conditioned objects, you lose the space. The space is always there. Do any of you, I don’t know how experienced you are in your vipassana practice, I would gather many different levels of experience. Do any of you use nada as a primary object, the sound of silence? Just a few. What I’m talking about here is a sound like cicada’s singing. It’s the space beyond the fingers. Everyday sound is there but the cosmic OM is there too. Sometimes when you get quiet enough, you hear it. For many people, when I introduce this they say, “Oh, I’ve been hearing that for years. I thought it was ringing in my ears. I never knew what it was.”

We begin to pay attention not only to the conditioned objects rising and passing away but also to that which remains. This is not yet a direct deep experience of the Unconditioned but an experience of the expressions of the Unconditioned, the signs or the nimitta as the suttas phrase it. There is a Nimitta Sutta, AN 3.100 (xi-xv) that talks clearly about this. It says, in small part:

"If he wants, he hearsâ€"by means of the divine ear-element, purified and surpassing the humanâ€"both kinds of sounds: divine and human, whether near or far. He can witness this for himself whenever there is an opening."

 The signs are Nada; a visual sign called Ground Luminosity. Have any of you done any dzogchen practice? A few. We see this luminosity just rising out of everything. It's not the aura, it's not energy; it's the Unconditioned expressing itself.

There’s a scent like honeysuckle, a taste and an energy. Do we have any body energy workers in the group? A few. You’re familiar with how you center yourself in that place of energy, and that when you work with a client, you feel that energy moving through them. It is not your energy, not their energy, just energy. These are all expressions of the Unconditioned.

It feels very important to me that you begin to recognize the simultaneity of conditioned and unconditioned so you don’t spend the next 20 years just watching conditioned objects arising and passing away and saying, “When is that breakthrough going to come?” It’s here, right now. Wake up to it.

This then is my cosmology, as it were, seeing the universe, not just your world but the universe in terms of these 8 densities, seeing where the human is in the experience, and how your practice gives you the tools to watch the object impersonal and impermanent, arising and passing away, and to rest in the space into which that object has dissolved. Just go there with it.

For example, as the bell goes out, just go with it, go out into that space.

Can you feel it? Maybe only for a moment and then the everyday world comes back. But remember it’s there, that space is there. Begin to rest in the spaces between objects. Look at this room–beautiful lights, ceiling, people, but the biggest object in the room is space. Of course, this conditioned space is only a metaphor for that of which I speak, but begin to notice space, including the space between the object and the reaction to the object. Begin to see the possibilities that a sound is just a sound, a thought is just a thought, a twinge in the big toe is just a twinge in the big toe. Stop compounding it all. See that you can do that, and as you do that, how much more freedom there is.

If you practice in this way and acquaint yourself with some of the dhamma teachings of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness and dependent arising and so forth, it will all come together, and your practice will set you free.

So yes, there’s a forest of leaves out there but this practice is all you need because this is where you are, third density human, working toward equanimity with arising and dissolution. Simply that.

There is so much more I would like tell you but I’m asked to keep some time open for questions. So at this point, I would invite your questions. I would ask you to speak slowly. Your questions are important to us…

Q: I’m curious, when you came to Barbara originally, how did you know to come to her? What was the cue you got?

Aaron: You all have guides and you all have teachers. Some of your teachers are human; some may not be human. Your path itself may be a teacher. You watch a flower bloom and die and it’s a teacher to you. Loss or ill health may be a teacher. Some teachers are with you all of your life, some are very temporary. But each of you also has a guide or several guides. Usually your guide is a being with whom there is a deep karmic connection, as there is for Barbara, and me, so I’m Barbara’s personal guide. She did not recognize me for much of her life; it took literally being banged over the head with that 4x4, losing her hearing, to wake up to the possibility that there are spirit plane guides.

We are here. There’s no wall between the planes from our perspective, you’re the ones with the wall. If you open the door, we can come in. So there’s a strong karmic connection from past lives that, let me simply say that in the lifetime in which I found liberation, she was a senior disciple. It was in a Thai forest monastery. She died–not “she” in that lifetime but the monk she was died in a tragic situation, and giving of the self for another. It was my intention to help offer her what had been lost by that death, a death given in service to others, so that’s why I came to her. Does that answer your question?


Please don’t be so shy, I’m sure there are questions!

Q: My question is, when you make contact with objects and you have personal spiritual experience, that leads us to be more mindful and compassionate in the world. Do we have enough time for enough people to wake up before the planet heats up and we have no place to live?

Aaron: My friend, I don’t see it going in that direction at all. You do have free will, and if your free will is used to destroy the planet, you can do so. But there are enough of you that do not hold that intention that I do not feel it’s going to go that way.

I don’t predict the future. This is just my personal view. Imagine you are running in a race with somebody; your experience has told you that person is a faster runner. It’s a marathon, a long race, and you see that person is ahead of you for the whole first 15 miles. I step forth and say it’s hopeless? Then you may give up. But perhaps that’s the day that you’re going to come out ahead, and the other will falter. To predict is to interfere with free will.

This is about how we manifest on the earth. If you believe it’s hopeless and act in a way to convey that belief to yourself and others, it creates more and more of an atmosphere of hopelessness. But if you hold the intention for the highest good of all beings to literally save the earth, to love the earth and all the creatures of the earth who are part of yourself, and you live your life in that direction and begin to convey that intention to all around you, not with fierceness but in a loving and openhearted way, more and more people are going to hear you and come in and start to imitate what you’re doing.

Fifty years ago, some of you are not old enough to remember this, but those who do, did any of you recycle 50 years ago? Were any of you concerned about natural resources 50 years ago? Look how much has been learned in so short a time.

This is not really a dhamma question and yet it is, in a sense, because you are unlimited. The only thing that holds you to limits is your belief in your limitation. When you come to know yourself as unlimited, and by that I don’t mean in the personal sense–I don’t expect anybody to go out the door and fly–but when you come to know your unlimitedness in your sense of interconnection with all that is, you ARE the birds in the sky, you are the fish in the sea, you are the tree with its roots into the ground, you are the sun that warms it all. When you live that interconnection, then the earth will thrive. This is why for each of you the intention toward liberation is so vital, not just to preserve the earth but the preservation of the earth will be the outcome of that liberation.

Q: Could you say more about the expressions of the Unconditioned?

Aaron: Are you familiar with the Pali word citta? Consciousness? Every consciousness, every citta, takes an object. Conditioned consciousness takes a conditioned object. So the eye takes a physical object, the ear takes a physical object--conditioned objects that arise out of conditions, are non-self, pass away. This is the whole field of conditioned objects. This is the mundane or kuttara citta.

There is also unconditioned consciousness, in the Pali, the lokuttara citta. Lokuttara is the supramundane citta. Every citta takes an object. Supramundane citta must take a supramundane object.

Which citta are open in this moment? Please don’t see this on a scale, conditioned consciousness on one side, unconditioned consciousness on the other; it’s simultaneous. For most of you, you’re dwelling in a very mundane consciousness. The mundane citta are functioning. It’s like this (holding up the hand with fingers open); you’re only looking at the fingers. Then, “Oh, there it is!” (looking through). Each time you get a glimpse of this supramundane realm, you increase in trust of the reality of it.

This is very basic Buddha Dhamma. In a beautiful sutra in which he’s addressing a group of monks, the Buddha says, “O monks, there is an Unborn, Undying, Unchanging, Uncreated. If it were not so, there would be no reason for our practice, no reason for our lives.”

So what is this Unborn and Undying? The Unconditioned. Conditioned objects are indirect expressions of the Unconditioned. Let me say that again: conditioned objects are indirect expressions of the Unconditioned. If the Unconditioned did not exist, the conditioned realm could not exist. If everything was of the nature only to arise from conditions and then to cease, the teaching would be nihilistic.

We don’t have to figure out what the Unconditioned is. The Buddha said we don’t need to know, and I understand that answer because to try to know takes you off into a realm of speculation. But when you do have a direct experience of the Unconditioned, one of the things that’s part of that experience is that you see how the conditioned realm is just popping out, like little kernels of popcorn held over heat–pop, pop, pop! The conditioned realm is simply expressing because of ongoing conditions.

Within all of that experience, we find what I call direct expressions of the Unconditioned. Each of the physical senses has a related direct expression of the Unconditioned. So we have nada as what relates on the conditioned level to an external sound from the ear organ touching the sound. Nada is the direct expression of the Unconditioned, that sound of silence. We don’t hear it through the physical ear; it’s an inner sound.

Luminosity is the visual equivalent. The scent of the Unconditioned, the Buddha talks about that scent in several places. There’s a taste, very very sweet taste. With our body there’s energy.

The benefit to getting to know at least one of these is that it can serve as a doorway. Those who have done any, I don’t want to call it dzogchen practice, we don’t have to go outside the Theravada tradition for this, but those who have worked at all with pure awareness, resting in pure awareness, that which is aware of an object arising is not self-identified with the object. So I’m distinguishing here between consciousness, and awareness. Let us use fear and consciousness of fear. Fear arises and consciousness says, “I’m afraid.” But that which is aware of fear is not afraid. Can you feel the difference? That which is aware of anger is not angry. Ajahn Chah spoke of this awareness as, “The one who knows.” It is not outside this tradition.

We use nada, luminosity, any of these direct expressions of the Unconditioned as a support, helping us to deepen the power of awareness. I’m using awareness here as synonymous with the opening of the lokutarra citta, supramundane consciousness. We have to get used to the experience of supramundane consciousness, to see that it exists, before it becomes a stable tool to directly touch the Unconditioned. Some people practice for so long working just with the conditioned, not allowing the practice to deepen into awareness. In such practice there will likely be too much tension, too much control, too much force in their practice, not opening up in that way. Then the experience of the Unconditioned remains “out there.”

But as you start to experience that space, you experience these direct expressions of the Unconditioned. You relax more into the simultaneity of conditioned and unconditioned, so this is the value of practicing in that way. Does that answer your question?

I see that we are out of time. My brothers and sisters, I thank you. It has been wonderful to spend this evening with you…

(recording ends)

Copyright © 2008 by Barbara Brodsky