There are five stages or paths in the spiritual evolution of a human being. The second of those five paths is called The Path of Preparation, preparation here specifically refers to gaining an increasingly deeper intellectual understanding of emptiness which gives us the necessary spiritual power to have the direct perception of emptiness on path number three. This increasingly deeper understanding of emptiness progresses through four distinct stages while traversing the second path.
What’s extremely important for us is that at the third stage of the second path is a beautiful place called Mastery. If we can reach this level in our intellectual understanding of emptiness, we can lock the door and throw away the key to the lower realms forever, thus assuring that we never again have to take a suffering birth lower than a human being. This is the ulitmate form of protection, and a crucial milestone to reach in this life so we can continue our journey through the rest of the paths to our final goal.
In this very important and beautiful two classes, Geshe Michael has searched through thousands of pages of the ancient Buddhist classics to give us more detail about how and why we can reach this level ourselves.
Here’s a summary of topics discussed in these two classes and the times in the video that correspond to each of these topics:
0:00 – Intro
5:40 – The story of a former life of Lord Buddha when he was a bodhisattva and reached the level of the second path called Mastery
45:00 – An overview of the 5 paths and the traditional names and definitions of the first four paths
51:00 – The Four Parts of the Second Path
55:00 – Names of the 4 parts of the Second Path
1:09 – Deeper analysis and expiation of the 4 parts of the 2nd path
0:00 – How to teach emptiness using the pen as an example
43:00 – How understanding emptiness effects karmic seeds, specifically how bad seeds are deactivated
48:00 – A discussion about what happens inside of us that makes it impossible for a person to take a lower birth when our understanding of emptiness reaches the level called Mastery
1:18 – The 5 powers or practices when combined with understanding emptiness create the power to prevent old bad karmic seeds from ripening and forcing us to take a lower birth
1:28 – How the direct perception of emptiness is enough goodness to destroy old bad karmic seeds
1:30 – Going further: A deeper analysis of the 4th part of the second path
1:32 – The Key to understand emptiness on a deeper level: Quality & Characteristic
Just as a bit of background information, here is a quick description of these five paths.
We reach the first most often when we undergo a personal tragedy—such as the death of our mother—which forces us to admit inside that we face inevitable pain and death in this life. It is said that a person who is on the bodhisattva track is able at the same time to recognize that everyone else around them faces the same problem.
And so they undertake their spiritual journey down the five paths with the added intention of helping everyone else around them. This intention is what we call bodhichitta.
The person then moves on to the second stage or path, at which they begin to have intellectual insights into where this pain, and all the rest of the world, is actually coming from. That is, they begin to figure out that their world, and all the people in it, are actually coming from karmic seeds within their own mind. And these seeds have been planted by deeds of either kindness or malice towards others.
This second stage culminates in a moment of understanding where the spiritual seeker first perceives how an actual object in their life—something like a pot on the stove—is actually flowing from seeds in their own mind.
At the third stage, a person who has reached this understanding goes further, and in a state of deep meditation sees directly that there is nothing in the world which is not coming from seeds within their mind. This deep meditational union with ultimate reality, the culmination of billions of lifetimes of effort, is so powerful that the practitioner will, within a brief period of time afterwards, be transformed into an enlightened being.
At the fourth stage, these insights enable the practitioner to overcome, permanently, all of their negative emotions, including the tendency to misunderstand their world. The fifth stage is perfect enlightenment, where mind and body transform into that of a being of light who is capable of attending personally to countless billions of people in countless worlds, guiding them to their own enlightenment.