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Preparation for a Higher Life

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Source of inspiration: The Kalachakra Tantra: The Dalai Lama’s Commentary1

His original text (sometimes slightly modified for the sake of this article) is in black letters; mine are in blue-grey.

– Rudi Jansma


The first condition in the preparation or enhancement, of those who wish to enter the higher life of Wisdom and Compassion for the sake of humanity and indeed all living beings is to develop the right motivation. Such a motivation can not be developed by merely momentary good intentions, not by chanting mantras or even by doing good deeds in itself. The motivation is the direct true wish existing in the Heart, or, to say it more correctly, the quality of buddhi or spiritual awakening of intuition of distinction between what is true and what is false, what is truly valuable or just ‘an opinion’ or ‘viewpoint’. First one has to mentally recognize the value of compassion and altruism and of the self-sacrifice altruistic action may require. The motivation can only become pure if all thought of the existence of a ‘self’, i.e. an ego for oneself alone is an illusion. Nothing in Nature, mundane or divine, is independent of other things. Everything influences everything else, like a cobweb that vibrates all over, mulidimensionally, with the tiniest touch of a minute fly. There is no independent ego in a human being or in any other living being. What we call ‘ego’ or ‘ourselves’ really only an idea formed by our mind. The ego is a cluster of feelings and thoughts, habits and attitudes that continuously changes. Our viewpoints, standpoints, opinions, feelings and degree of happiness constantly change even within seconds, and during the day, continuously throughout our lives and succession of lives. Our ego (or rather our hierarchy of ego’s – because we have an ‘animal’, human, spiritual and even a divine ego and more) is never the same for a split second. Each of these ego’s is always developing, evolving, interchanging information with others and they are exerting reciprocal influences. Every good thought, word of action initiated by ourselves, our ego, influences the whole cosmos, everything being interconnected infinitely more intricately than the points of a cobweb. It must be known that the cosmos does not just exist of physical matter and energies and their ‘laws of nature’, but that the physical is only the tiny outer crust of the real universe consisting of finer (and some coarser) forms of matter western science has no knowledge of. To learn more about this one must study the occult sciences. Because of the ever changing exchanging and evanescent nature we can not say that our ‘ego’ or ‘self’ truly exists as an entity. Belief in an true, permanent, unchanging ego or self or Self (ātma) is a false belief and together with its practical consequences is called egotism. However we can also not say that the ego does not exist, as even some Buddhist lamas tend to believe. A human ego includes self-consciousness, the ability to recognize differences, and to make free, self-conscious or half-self-conscious choices. Free choice of course does not mean ‘absolutely free’ because our choices depend on so many causes and conditions. That is why this cluster of feelings and thoughts called ‘ego’ has responsibility, and will ‘reap’ or experience the consequences of all that it sets in movement in the cosmic web. There is something that calls myself ‘me’. I am the same ‘me’ as twenty years ago, the same ‘me’ as in former and future lives. ‘Me’ is a long-lasting nucleus or core of consciousness. Something in it is one with the all, and never extinguishes. It is never separate from all other things and egos. To think that it is separate is the ‘Mother of all mistakes.’ Though not constant in its ever-changing and exchanging compound nature, it is always responsible. Every cause initiated by this cluster of thoughts and feelings called ‘ego’ – be it a high or a less evolved ego – becomes for the time being an inherent part of it. Every thought or feeling created by and in this cluster is a ‘māyā’, an illusion and can not last forever because it is not real. Therefore it will experience before and on the moment of action – in the form of conscience – as well as (later) all the consequences of the actions, thoughts, feelings and opinions it allows itself. This is what is known as the law of karma. ‘Good’ leads to pleasant experience, ‘evil’ to unpleasant experience within the ego-awareness. Both are not real in ultimate analysis, but appear as real in the form of joyful and painful phenomena or experiences. Illusions will develop into other, and greater illusions – until destroyed by Truth – and thus the ever changing ego remains caught in a unending cycle of pleasant and/or unpleasant experiences. This we call, in general terms joy and suffering. Now, it has been the task – born from compassion and wisdom – of all true Teachers of humankind, such as for example the buddhas, to help one to destroy the illusions which the imperfect and biased mind has created within our ego-cluster, and to destroy all seeds of evil in the ego.

The best way to destroy all seeds of ego is to ignore every selfish prompting of one’s mind and feelings, and replace them immediately by an altruistic thought or feeling. This is so because selfishness is opposite to Nature, whereas altruism is Nature itself, directed to well-being of all conscious beings in the universe – first of all the humanity directly around us. Selfishness is opposite to Nature because it is derived from the illusion that one can do or think something for ourselves or our own ego alone, which, as explained, does not truly exist in the way we usually think it to exist.

Altruism on the other hand, is not an illusion, but is practicing the laws of nature as they actually are, a sending forth of good or stimulating thoughts and powers into the universe for the good of all who are part of the universe or web of being. Nothing or no thing is not a part of the universe. It is the continuous creation of good causes for intellectual and spiritual evolution and culture among humankind to be accompanied by the least of misery. Evolution and grandness of development takes place as sure as the movement of a river, but how the quality, nobility and smoothness of the future cultures will be depends on us now. Once this is understood, a true altruistic motivation becomes natural and automatic – not rigid or something to fear – and altruism is greatly stimulated by the awareness of the great and unnecessary suffering of all those who are caught in their self-made illusions or those who have entered their being through breathing the pollutions of the human mental environment. What else would one want to do than to sow seeds of good causes, alleviate suffering and stimulate culture and evolution in harmony with the great cyclic laws (or kalachakra) of Nature?

It is clear that true altruistic and compassionate motivation is something than is much and much more than just good intention. Pure motivation can be developed either slowly by continuous practice, or faster by mental understanding according to what has been explained above.

Entering the arcana of divine wisdom and power can only be allowed when through perhaps many lifetimes of practice and effort, including successes, and failures, disappointment, obstruction and even despair the ‘gold in the crucible becomes purified’ and recognized by the heart of those who are further on the path that we ourselves at the moment. Those who suffer much will understand misery better and thus be more motivated and more able to guide others by experience of their own conquests. Such people become natural beneficial forces.

If one chooses to combine practice and effort while at the same time a selfish and ‘personally comfortable’ life, black magic, lifetimes of confusion, even madness and when maintained in the long term eventually total annihilation of one’s soul through sinking deeper and deeper into the greatest suffering of despair and loneliness (= is absolute belief in an isolated ego) may ensue. But however many mistakes one makes and failures one faces, as long as one has still a connection with Truth and a spark of compassion, one can turn around upwards, and all failures become lessons.

However suffering does not have to take place on the physical, psychological or mental planes like as if we were but a feather in the wind. Suffering can be the teacher of compassion, but compassion mean ‘suffering with, or feeling with’ another. But compassion is of little avail without wisdom and knowledge. A doctor has not have to be sick himself to cure his patient. Suffering does not have to be undergone on the same level of manifestation as the sufferer does. His or her particular suffering is their karma only. Nobody may take on or ‘steal’ somebody else’s karma, and thus deprive them of their lesson given by Nature’s Wisdom itself. An outsider can never do more than ‘alleviate’ or guide the others suffering, but can never undergo it exactly. Through the path of study, proper meditation and occultism one learns to understand the causes of suffering and their antidotes. One can then help to prevent suffering through teaching and example. To be able to do that one must oneself be enlightened, either concerning a particular subject, or in a higher sense, totally enlightened concerning all that is in the universe. Sch a person is a Buddha.

The Path to Nirvāṇa is only for those who are properly qualified. One day, all of us, the one sooner, the other later, will stand before the gates and can, when pure, enter the greater life.

Thus you know and understand the importance of true kindness – that is the special kind of altruism which is called bodhicitta in2 Mahayana Buddhism, or Universal Compassion – and of wisdom, called prajñā. These are the two key words of Mahāyāna Buddhism including Vajrayāna3 as well as esoteric Buddhism4

The Founding Sages behind the formation of the Theosophical Society are often called ‘Masters (or Mahātmas) of Wisdom and Compassion’. These two mental developments, wisdom and compassion – prajñā and bodhicitta – are the ground or foundation without which we cannot perform any higher practice.

With regard to wisdom, things appear as if independently existent, but in reality do not exist that way; we should understand that things do not exist in accordance with their solid mode of appearance.

Then, with regard to kindness, a form of altruism, human society could not survive, could not exist, without kindness. If we think properly, the entire human society is based on kindness; all human relations are essentially centered in kindness. Think for example of those who built your house or grew your vegetables. In the field of religious practice, the feeling of kindness or altruism is the key point.

Also, it is very important to realize the nature of suffering. As long as we have this type of physical body as we have now, which is under the influence of contaminated actions of the past (Tib.: las, Sk.: karma) and afflictive emotions (nyon mongs, kleśa), something will be wrong – this will be wrong or that will be wrong. It is important to realize that all conscious phenomena of cyclic existence have an aspect of suffering.

The other important realization is that of impermanence, as discussed above: everything ever changes, nothing is permanent. Illusions will always perish in the light of undivisive Truth. Things are always changing. You should understand that this is their nature. With these thoughts in mind, we will proceed.

The most important factor is good motivation. We have already attained a good, useful human body, as compared with all other forms of existence and we have an opportunity to accomplish something of great impact. Realize that you will do something meaningful while you have this human body. The human body is precious because physical existence (on earth) is the only realm of action, the only realm to make spiritual progress and be helpful to others. The realms between death and rebirth are effect-realms in which the consciousness experiences the results of mundane desires and spiritual thoughts, usually both. One can not do anything for others there, nor create any karma for oneself, unless one is a trained occultist and bodhisattva who knows and has learned to function on the higher planes.

To do something meaningful with physical existence you should not be selfish but should generate as much as possible an altruistic attitude. Altruism is most important.

The next question is how to serve other people, how to help other beings – not just humans but all sentient beings. According to Buddhist teaching, events depend upon our own karmic force; for the wanted happiness to occur and the unwanted suffering not to occur, persons need an unmistaken mode of accumulating karma. In a sense ‘happiness’ and ‘unhappiness’ are just terms adopted in Buddhism to refer to all future phenomena. In fact a true spiritual aspirant does not care for his own happiness or unhappiness – because that would be selfish and both are but illusions) though he does care for that of all those others who as yet evolving in their personal feelings. ‘Serving other people’ means rather to evolve within them, from within towards active manifestation, all qualities that are inherent in the human being; and these are many more than we can even dream of, but could be called Buddhic qualities’ but as yet latent or dormant. From a Theosophical point of view, self-conscious humanity is still in the beginning section of the total human development in the coming millions of year. Exoterically, helping others is mainly in terms of explaining to others what is to be adopted in practice and what is to be discarded from our behavior.

The Subduers [Buddhas] neither wash ill-deeds away with water,

Nor remove beings’ sufferings with their hands,

Nor transfer their realizations to others.

Beings are released through the teachings of the truth,

The final reality.

Esoterically the ‘teachings of the truth’ are vast and difficult to understand in the present stage of mental and spiritual-intuitional development of humankind, for an Einstein-like intellect as little as for an illiterate shepherd in Mustang. Would but an Einstein dedicate his intellect to Occultism! So far we have not found such people in the Western sphere of influence. That is why the teachings are still esoteric. Humanity at large has not reached the stage of evolution that belongs to a future age. What is esoteric now will be exoteric in the future and become part of common thinking or religion among the then humanity – that is, we ourselves in future incarnations. The modern Theosophic movement had and has the task to lift only a minute tip of the veil separating us from the esoteric life. What is taught is only for the few – not because the teachings are elite and given only to ‘a chosen few’ (they are all available online) but because humans and humanity at large rejects them as ‘nonsense’, ‘fantasy’, ‘vague’ ‘unrealistic views of so-called New-agers whose minds float in the air’, etc. There is nothing in Theosophy that the Buddha did not know; but at his lifetime the holiest of secrets could only be given to a very few. That number is now a little larger – despite the decadence of modern society.

For a teacher, lecturer, writer, etc., to be able to teach without mistake what is to be adopted in practice and what is to be discarded for now, these topics cannot be obscure to the teacher himself. As Dharmakirti’s Commentary on the Dignāga’s) “Compendium of Valid Cognition” (tshad ma rnam ‘grel, pramāṇavarttika) says:

“In order to overcome suffering [in others] the merciful manifestly engage in methods.

When the causes of what arise from those methods are obscure

[to the teacher himself],

It is difficult to explain them [to others]’

If what is to be taught is beyond your ken, you cannot pos­sibly teach it.”

In addition, a teacher needs to know, exactly as they are, the various dispositions and interests of those whom you would teach. If you do not know their dispositions and interests, even though your attitude is good, it is nonetheless possible to do harm due to the teaching’s not being appropriate and imperfectly understood. There­fore, as long as your mind is polluted by the obstructions to omniscience such that you are prevented from knowing all objects of knowledge, you cannot fully bring about others’ welfare. In Theosophical terms, only mahatmas (bodhisattvas) who fully know and understand the stage the world is in, or, privately, understand their chelas’ [disciples’] inner development, can unveil a appropriate bit of esoteric knowledge to humanity; and a little more to their sworn disciples.

This being the case, bodhisattvas consider their real enemy to be the obstructions to omniscience. If bodhisattvas had a choice either to get rid of the afflictive obstructions prevent­ing liberation from cyclic existence or to get rid of the obstruc­tions to omniscience, they would choose the latter. However, since the fact is that the obstructions to omniscience are pre­dispositions left by the afflictive obstructions, without re­moving that which deposits these predispositions there is no way to remove the predispositions; thus, it is necessary to remove first the afflictive obstructions and then the obstruc­tions to omniscience. Hence, to bring about others’ welfare, it is necessary to remove entirely both obstructions – those to libera­tion and those to omniscience. That level, or ground, at which the afflictive emotions as well as their predispositions have been removed forever is called buddhahood, a state endowed with the exalted wisdom knowing all aspects of objects of know­ledge.

The purpose is to bring about sentient beings’ ‘welfare’; the means to accomplish this is your own buddhahood [enlightenment]. This sequence of thought is how you come to determine that you must attain enlightenment for the sake of others. The attitude generated is called bodhicitta, the altruistic intention to become enlightened, and it must be cultivated continually, at least in a fabricated way. The author of the original article on which I am writing my commentary, Jeffrey Hopkins, a Vajrayanist, says: “You should think, ‘I will rely upon the path of unified Sūtra and Mantra and, within that, on Highest Yoga Tantra – specifically the path of the Kalachakra Tantra – as a technique for easily achieving such buddhahood. Thereby I will achieve highest enlightenment for the sake of others, and for this reason I am requesting initiation’.” A Theosophist would say: “You should rely on the esoteric teachings and bring whatever you grasp of them in practice. Do not falter. When your nobility is great and time is there for you, you will be led by the Masters through the path of successive initiations, and ultimately become one of them, and so on beyond.”

The Sūtra says: Those who seek Buddhahood should not wish for effects in this life. Those who want results in this life do not accrue the aim of what transcends the world.

Those generating a seeking for what transcends the world [gain] expansive fruits [even] in this world.

  1. While reading this text, translated and edited by Jeffrey Hopkins, in his Introduction, I felt inspired to write a Commentary from my Theosophical background. The original text is to be found in The Kalachakra Tantra: The Dalai Lama’s Commentary, by Jeffrey Hopkins (transl., Ed.), Part One Chapter 1 p. 170-173. Sommerville MA, Wisdom Publications (1985) 1999 ISBN 0-86171-151-3. Jeffrey Hopkins is a well-known American Buddhist scholar and professor and has done great work by interpreting simultaneously during the Dalai Lama’s Kalachakra initiations as well as writing and translating a number (61 books up to now) of important works, such as Meditation on Emptiness, Emptiness Yoga, Tsong-khapa’s Tantra in Tibet, and many other often together with H.H. the XIV-th Dalai Lama, such as Mind of Clear Light: Advice on Living Well and Dying Consciously, Cultivating Compassion: A Buddhist Perspective, The Buddhism Of Tibet. He may not (always) agree with my commentary, and I hope not to upset him. In that case I apologize. All faults are mine. []
  2. Bodhicitta is the ‘wisdom mind’ or ‘wisdom consciousness’ dedicated to the liberation of all beings. compassion can also be translated as karuna or mahakaruna [maha = great]. []
  3. Vajrayāna is ‘the Diamond Method (or Vehicle or Path)’ within Mahāyāna, ‘the Great Method’ []
  4. Esoteric Buddhism or Theosophy is not the same as Vajrayāna (also called mantra- or tantrayāna), because the last is a method, not the essence of Spiritual Teaching – though at least part of that essence is contained esoterically (hidden) in the Vajrayāna Teachings also. []