Rick Archer: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer, and my guest this week is all Oka David Smith. Welcome.
Āloka David Smith: Thank you. Thank you, Rick. Nice to be here.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Good to have a locos in the UK. And I’ll read a short bio of him here and have him elaborate a bit. He was born in Oxford. That’s funny. We just watched that murder mystery endeavor that was set in Oxford that wow, what a place to live everybody’s gay. Sight of Killing Fields actually. More small. All right. Yeah, it was fun. So he was born in Oxford in 1946, and has been a practicing Buddhist for 40 years, began training with Zen practicing with the venerable Meeow Kyo nee a teacher from the Rinzai school at the Buddhist society in London. This I’ll switch to the way he wrote it here. This was my practice for more than five years before traveling to Sri Lanka and 1980. Here I lived for three years as a Tera Vaada monk under the guidance of the venerable Dama loca Maha Terra, it was, while I was in Sri Lanka that my spiritual breakthrough took place in 1981. And it is this that forms the framework of my first book, a record of awakening published in 1999. Now, in I mean, a local gave an interview with Ian Mcnay of conscious TV that covers a lot of this biographical stuff in detail. But there’s a lot of things that didn’t cover. And one of which is I didn’t feel that I really heard much about this awakening that took place in this breakthrough in 1981. And I’m sure there’s some other things you’d like to fill in. Also, kind of a biography of all because life is not going to be the main focus of this interview, we’re going to talk about the concept of paradox and Buddha nature. And there’s a whole other section of information that I’d like to discuss with, with you. So but let’s start with filling out the bio a little bit more, and also come around to talking about this breakthrough that took place in at one place.
Āloka David Smith: Yes, well, in order for me to, you know, to be be be a bit detailed on on the actual breakthrough, I think it’s important that I do give you a I do put it in a framework because it didn’t just pop out the blue, like, so many, so many people that you interview their experiences, it just it just you know, they have no, they have no sort of practice. And these things just open up for them somehow
Rick Archer: not all people but some don’t. Some people they’re tying their shoes one morning and all sudden boom,
Āloka David Smith: hmm, exactly. Well, you really have to see this in the context of Buddhist practice, if that’s okay. And, and so, that gives you that gives you the framework of Yes, please, that needs to be put in place in order for such a such an event to take place. Okay. And this, for me came after several years of practice, six, about six and a half years of practice from the beginning. And, and most of that time was a lot, a lot of that time was really quite a no, it’s not an easy path. You know, he’s it’s, you are dealing you just learn to sit with yourself you learn to the practice that you take on that you’re taught is very much about learning to get to know yourself, learning to sit learning to get to know yourself, learning to look into yourself, learning to investigate, and follow an insightful path. Which means if you’re on an insightful path, you really, you’re, as I say, you really have to be with yourself and be open to yourself. And, and, and live the experiences that come up. There’s no sort of ducking and diving, which is what, you know, which we can do quite easily in life, or at least try anyway, this way. It’s, it is about just being very open to yourself and you know, having, having the experiences and hopefully they they lose their edge, they burn themselves out so that you can move on to the, you know, to the next layer as it were. And it’s important to see to see that in this context, because what’s important, you know, to have this practice and in a Buddhist context, there is a path, the path that you follow, and the very clearly defined path, it depends on the tradition that you happen to be following. But there is there is this thing called a path where you where you work through, as I say, the sort of layers of yourself until such time that they fully matures.
Rick Archer: And it’s really well broken down in Buddhism, isn’t it in terms of all the various milestones that you traverse or encounter on that path?
Āloka David Smith: Yes, it depends a lot on the type of practice that you have. And how conceptualized it is, yeah. If you have say, like, you know, for example, Tera Vaada. Practice, which, on the whole I didn’t, then it is very structured. And it is very sort of systemized, and you go from one Wednesday to the next. And that’s all identified, if you’re, if you’re, if you’re more on the path that that I’ve essentially followed over the years, which you can see is the Zen path. The Chiang path, is the path of the so called imminent model, as opposed to the developmental model, those are the two models. development model is one that you that you develop, and you go from step to step, the imminent model is one is one of accepting that from the very beginning, you’re already awakened. So there’s nothing to create, there’s nothing to make, you don’t actually you don’t develop anything. But you learn to just wake up to where you are, where you’ve always been. And that and that seriously conditions, the type of training that you have, and seriously conditions the spirit in which you, which you engage with.
Rick Archer: And we’ll talk about that when we talked about Yeah, ducks.
Āloka David Smith: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So for me, it you couldn’t really stretch structure in that way. It’s really your own personal path, and how things work for you, and how the things that you work through, I mean, some very difficult times, times of quite, quite strong depression that I had, at the beginning, the first four years were the most difficult. where things were, I just simply go through so much of my own personal stuff that was coming up so many challenges just to simply carry on. And but for the fact that I had a teacher who supported me, emotionally, as well as giving advice. I don’t think I would have, I don’t think I would have, I would have stuck at it, it was so difficult. And also having Sangha, which is a very, very important feature, if you’re on this type of path is to have Sangha, meaning a group of people, a group of people, yeah, you cannot, you cannot with a teacher and a group of people. You can’t do this on your own, you may think that you can, you know, but you proceed and then and then you then you hit you hit the buffers. And then to carry on through through those difficult times without support. I well, I personally don’t think it’s possible to do. So.
Rick Archer: Bring that up, because a lot of fall off the path, you know,
Āloka David Smith: absolutely. So having you see, you need a framework around you, you need that you need a teacher, you need a you need a sangha. And you’ve also got to have the correct vision and the right teaching. So it’s all pointing you in the right directions. So if you’ve got that framework around you, then it becomes possible, then then it’s it’s doable, but it’s still not easy, by any stretch. And it’s very easy to get it wrong at any any time. This is what the teachers for, you know, we we can so easily convince ourselves, we got it, right, we know what to do. It’s all straightforward. But it’s also just the subtleness, the subtleness, of of this journey is such that what you won’t see this from this, you won’t pick it, and you think you’ve got it right. In fact, you’ve gone off on a tangent. This is why teacher is Well, to me, it’s non negotiable. If you don’t have a teacher, I think you’re going to pull it off. So that’s the great value of the teaching. And my teacher in those early years supported me. And that’s my great gratitude towards my teacher, because I would have backed up it was very, very difficult.
Rick Archer: You know, that even some of these people who have spontaneous awakenings they very often go out and find a teacher afterwards to help them make sense of what has happened.
Āloka David Smith: Well, that yeah, that’s, that’s certainly better than trying to work it out yourself. Yeah. You know, and hopefully the teacher understands where you’re coming from and can, you know, obviously can help you and I mean, that’s that that’s that is a great value. But but just just to get to that point, within Buddhism anyway, there’s so We wouldn’t even get to the to the awakened state anyway, this doesn’t matter, this traditionally, this spontaneous thing that seems to be around quite a lot these days, I don’t think you find any reference in Buddhism towards that at all. Everything is always done, you find a teacher, and you go to whatever and you take it from day one and go through the system as it were.
Rick Archer: Well, there’s two things about that. One is that I think maybe the times are changing, and there are more spontaneous awakenings than there might once have been. And also, some of these so called spontaneous awakenings might not be awakenings at all, they might just be some kind of intellectual realization or something that hasn’t really gone into the bones. So you know, we’ll talk about that.
Āloka David Smith: Yes, yes. With this, this rising of cosmic consciousness has never seems to be the thing that’s happened over the last few years.
Rick Archer: Yeah, if these people who say that the planetary consciousness is waking up or right, then we can expect to see more of these spontaneous.
Āloka David Smith: Without question, something’s going on. Yeah, because it’s not been like that. It might for two years, there was nothing like this until the last, I don’t know, 10 years or something, right? These things just never happened. So something’s going on. But, you know, what? The wants to sort of go off on a tangent here. But for me, you know, my practice was certainly a lot settled after the last 18 months of being with my teacher, I actually never I never actually went to see her at all. I was actually, okay, this force feed for years, a lot of stuff fell away. A lot of, you know, I was settled and, and quite, sort of capable of, of carrying on without too much support. I mean, apart from having sanka support, which is always with you. And then that brings me to my to my Why would I go to Sri Lanka, because it was very happy. With my teacher with my group with the training I was, I was quite content with my life in London, I had a good flat, good work. And I went to Sri Lanka, when you actually one year went for a holiday and came back and I liked it so much that I went back again. And the second time I went, I met I met, I made a point of going into Temple, which I didn’t really do the first time around. And I met I met a monk who took me to meet his teacher, this is up in candy. Who took me to just to say hello to him. And when I met him, he he leapt off his bed, I was massaging his leg, actually, because he was that’s what you that’s what you deal with Masters. You just you massage them when you talk to them. And he leapt off his bed and he said he was going to ordain me. Now, that comes out. And I immediately said, Oh, no, I’m not the slightest bit interested, I’ve never had a calling never had any thoughts or ideas or desires to be a monk. I’m quite happy with what I’m doing in London. And I have no reason to come here. But having said that, when he said it, it fitted in with other aspects of my practice that have been with me since the beginning, maybe even before I came to the practice that I always felt, and this is quite difficult to describe. I always felt that that I was being supported. Maybe even guided by something other than me, me as me as this person who was doing the practice, there was something sort of mysterious going on. that I that I, I learned to to identify and learn to just open up to and learn to learn to trust. And somehow it used to I just felt he was supporting me, especially in my difficult times. And I always felt it was part of my practice that it was with me what I don’t know, I always got the sense in the early days that it was something external rather than internal. That changed. But for a long time, I was felt like there was something sort of following me. No, no, this is already an angel or something. Well, well, exactly something along those lines, but it was something quite, you know, irrationally logical, you know, it can be dismissed and many people would, you know, probably would dismiss it because it can never be proved and shown sort of rationally or in any tangible form.
Rick Archer: Those things I say, I know people who perceive those things, absolutely. Routinely is no as ordinary route reality for them.
Āloka David Smith: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So I learned to trust it. And what I discovered with it was that, that what whenever it sort of showed itself whenever I felt that it was sort of supporting me or, or pointing the way in some way, it could never be rationalized. To our right, yeah, that makes sense. I’m gonna, but it would show me something where it took an inactive faith, learn to trust it without knowing, you know, all the logic if there was any logic, which never wasn’t in logic, but learning, learning to trust, and that’s so important learning to trust.
Rick Archer: And if it’s not when guardian angel, could you just think of it as your own intuition, you know, which is well, more developed,
Āloka David Smith: I’ll come to that. This is in the early, early, this is my sort of perception in the early days. And coming to when my teacher to be said, he would ordain me and I said, Oh, no, I’m not, you must be joking, I am not giving my life up and coming here to be a part of the traditional, I literally knew absolutely nothing whatsoever about why should I do this, give me a reason why. And I can think of 50 reasons why I shouldn’t do it. But there was only one reason why I should do it. And that I was being told, being shown that this is the next thing for me to do, and just have all the courage, I suppose to let go of my life and follow something that I was literally had no, no concept, I couldn’t even conjure up any sort of visions and sort of images about it at all. So I knew nothing of the tradition. But at the same time, I knew that, oh, here we go. Here we go. I gotta give everything up. It was part of my it’s part of my soul as a part of my practice. And, and part of what was beginning to sort of open for me, and I had to do it. So after fighting it, when I came back to England, I fight it, fought it for several weeks, and always known that I was going to give in events I did give it so I literally gave up my whole life in England, and I left I went through like one little bag in my hand, that is my whole all of my worldly possessions was after having my own place, and car and business and, and one little bag like this. Just following this is very, very important in the context of the the whole picture here. This is very, very important, because this is this has to do with Buddha nature, and it’s about making contact with the, with the unconditioned, that part of you that’s, that’s real. Of course, I didn’t know these things at that time. So I went, I went on trust, I knew that whatever I was doing, I knew that would be okay. Because that’s the way things have been working for me over the previous few years. And it was an absolute act of trust. And I went and I actually found it very difficult. Initially, I had a lot of trouble with the food. I was very noun, malnourished, I lived in my teachers village temple, in the middle of nowhere, I used to go begging for my food every day, I was gotten a food but there’s no note very, very little nourishment there. And if supplied everything, and I almost Oh, I almost came back, I thought, I really felt that I felt like I was going to become ill at any moment, I felt so vulnerable. But my teacher gave me some sort of complete food like Complan thing. And within a few days, I was I was absolutely fine again. And he sent me down to the island Hermitage, the island and sudden it’s right down the south of the island, where I spent most of my time and where things my whole training began to develop. Once I settled there, took on a particular type of meditation, which was traditional for Tera Vaada. And it was over those next few months where everything inside me just started to open up. It’s like I took a look I took a knife, the sat down, become quiet, locked in, locked in at myself just looked looked at the whole of me and just started to to investigate and to cut open which the tools of this particular training gives you fantastic, fantastic, traditional form of insight, practice. And I use these tools and I was which I never did before when I was in England I did different training altogether different practice altogether. And this completely just kept me open ended just blow open. And just the sort of wonder and just that the fantastic experience of what was being revealed as to like my reality, my Mustang star and my relative life my relative world because that’s what it does. And beginning to get a little taste as to what’s beyond there.
Rick Archer: What was the experience actually because he said cut me open but what do you Well, how would you actually describe well?
Āloka David Smith: Well, for example, I’ll give you an example. You know, the the actual practice is called the elections, three sides of being that everything It is important if you know that everything is impermanent, everything is suffering, and everything is not self. There are three tools that there are three truths of the phenomenal world, everything about that, that law, there’s laws. So when you settle down, concentration, find stillness, which is paramount to be still, you have to find stillness, it’s number one, to find stillness, you then take one of those tools, look at yourself, whatever it may be, I’ve never had a formal path as it were a formal system that I followed, I just had a very free and open one, whatever, whatever showed itself, I would love it, plus, my personality, thinks that I was holding on to whatever was going on at the time, nothing sort of, you know, massively important, but just things that you were that I would be, maybe some things were important. And the way it would work is that you would look at this particular attachment that you had, either you could, you can see, almost, almost physically, you can see the pictures, you can see the attachment that you had for something that was very precious to you. And so you, you would look at it, you say well, okay, if that’s, that’s the way it is, where am i Where’s this person that’s attached, this thing that seems to be very solid, like a solid entity, like your thoughts, or some something like a solid, solid form, to look at that, to look at look closely, look closely at a particular phenomenon. And see that, in fact, it wasn’t something solid, that when you look at it, it’s something that actually is made up of lots of other conditions that happened to come together at that time that created this, this notion of the reality of, of whatever you were thinking about. And so that solid thing that you were, that you were convinced was a real solid entity, you begin to doubt it. And of course, the thing, the thing more than anything that you look at is the meat is the meat is the self, there’s doing all the attaching, and looking for the self, and looking for this person and never finding. And all you find is a lot of conditions that just happen to come together for the CO production, they all they all help each other so that you end up creating this thing that you then hold on to, and it becomes me and mine, and my possession, and then all the acts that goes around, when you attach in all the, you know, all the anxiety of life and holding on to something, which is what we all experience. But actually finding what you’re holding on to is just, it’s just a collection of bits and pieces. And there isn’t actually anybody there anyway, doing the wholeness and the whole thing just begins to fall apart. It’s a bit like, you know, just simple parallel, it’s like looking at a car, you see a car Oh, isn’t that beautiful as my car is fantastic, I’m in love with my car is the most important thing in my life, okay. But then, but then you get close to your clouds, that might be a car that you want to buy and you know, all the audio, then you’ve just got one image of a car. So I’m saying, but when you get close to it, you find that well hang on a minute, this car isn’t its mate, it’s actually made of bits that are all bolted together, screwed together welded together, all so actually, there’s no such thing as a car. But a collection of bits, you don’t fall in love with bits, you fall in love with the image that they create when they’re all put together. But the reality is that, in fact, is just a collection of I say nuts and bolts basically, and all these, you know, but then that, that, that same sort of image, that same metaphor goes for yourself, that when you look in there, and you’re looking for this person who’s so precious, is the most important person in the whole world, that you’ll do anything to defend and shore up protect, promote, reinforce, actually, when you look when you look closely at UCC, t’s just a bundle of conditions. So, the thing begins to break up and that has consequences mean because your whole makeup is made up of of the absolute conviction that you are I am this person, and I own this and I am this and I am that with the views of this and that and also physical possessions and and mainly possessions, possessions of your own body you know so that you get a sense of a solid entity. So, and the great thing with these tools is they begin to begin to cut off the whole thing begins to break up.
Rick Archer: And these tools were like a sitting practice, right? Where you’re Yeah, it’s that concept of dating for hours on end or something,
Āloka David Smith: yes, you would sit, you would sit and you would evoke one of the tools for me, Anna towers, it’s called not self is the one that always attracted me most. So Anna Tara, so like I say, I’d be so attached to something that’s so precious to me. But then I’ll go looking for this person who who is attached, whereas this person, just just let me see you. And of course, you know, the closer you look, the further away you get from actually finding the thing that that you are so utterly convinced, is real.
Rick Archer: And you’re able, you’re able to sit and focus and do that in a consistent way without your mind wandering off of, well, the weather here is kind of hot, and I should probably be back in England. Oh, you know, what the mind does.
Āloka David Smith: That’s what the mind does. Well, the, the in time you become you become capable of when those little things do flit in and they do. You don’t follow them. You just leave them and they go away. So you never follow them, you don’t you don’t get caught by them. So you just let it go. And you come back and you stay without that thing that’s very, very grounded within you. That’s that’s, that’s, that doesn’t, that doesn’t move around. So you can you can look in, and all comes with stillness, which is what needs to be learned.
Rick Archer: Yes, good question here. I’ve been interviewing some Buddhists lately, or people who do Buddhist practice. Last week was a well known TV newsman in the US named Dan Harris. And he happened to mention that his head had meditated just before our interview, and I said, Well, how was it he said, it was rough, you know, it was really unpleasant, but I just soldiered through it. And, and, you know, in my own practice, it was kind of a different nature. I’ve been doing it for 46 years. And, and it’s always been pleasant, you know, which I sort of it blissful, enjoyable, restful, rejuvenating. And so I mean, the old, more fundamentalist may would think, well, there’s something wrong with a practice that is difficult and unpleasant. You know, it’s not as good as my practice, which is easy and enjoyable. But, but the newer me, having interviewed so many people, now, many of whom have had profound awakenings as a result of a practice that inherently wasn’t that enjoyable. It’s taking a second look at that whole notion. And, you know, the, there’s apparently really different ways of going about it, and you know, different paths can all lead to the same goal, perhaps, or maybe that leads to different goals. Anyway, comment on that, if you would,
Āloka David Smith: yeah, sure. Well, it sounds like you’ve got yourself what would technically be called, like a standard under what practices SunButter a common practice? When I learned
Rick Archer: Transcendental Meditation 96, you know, do something different now. But along the same lines, but it’s, it’s always been kind of smooth and easy.
Āloka David Smith: Yeah. But, you know, that’s, well, okay, that’s fine. If it’s something that you enjoy, but if you want to get if it’s something that that is important to you, or even burns within you, that you want to get to the bottom of the human condition, what why, why is life like this? Why am I like this? Why is this a sense of unsatisfactoriness, you want to get to the bottom of that, you’ve got to learn to burrow into who you are, you can’t sort of stand outside and have those sorts of experiences, as I was just trying to explain to you, you’ve got to get in there. And you’ve got to, you’ve got to see the reality of this person, that you’re convinced who you are, that you’ve been convinced all your life who you are, because that’s where the trouble is, because the sense of me, me, you see that me is at the bottom of the whole thing. So you want to get to know you need, you need to get in and sort of Winkle it out as it will get to see it and break it up. Because this is this is the cause of suffering. Well, okay, that that requires you to go on a journey, which is which is what you know, in Buddhism, it’s called a path that you that you that you go on that journey into yourself, and you know, that God, some bits are great, as you say, You hid the lovely bits and the bliss and the rapture, and all the sort of heavenly heavenly experiences that you can have. But the truth of yourself as it is that you’re you’re a mixture of lots and lots of stuff, and a lot of that stuff is extremely is not nice at all. Oh, yeah. We have. Yeah, we have a dark side. Yeah. And we all have a dark side. Even though some of us most of us don’t go near it, because it’s terrifying, it frightens the hell out of us. So we don’t go there. And we spend our life avoiding it just being busy and doing things chasing things. We don’t we don’t, we don’t want to know that. But if you want to know the truth of things, you’ve actually got to turn around and face it and walk into it. And that journey is one of walk on the dark side. It’s not it’s not just by definition, it’s not, it’s not an easy thing to do. This is why you need support, you need a teacher to guide you in you need that, that that support around you, so that you can begin to make that journey. And when you make that journey, you begin to wake up to see what you’re doing that you created this world, you created this angst, this unsatisfactory, this is actually something that you created, that that’s just not created by your parents, and by your teacher, and by your boss and all of that, you’re actually actually you are spending your your life, minute by minute reinforcing it, you’re feeding it, you’re feeding it, but you’re also being caught by it. So what you need to do is to understand that you don’t know that because you’re so far away from it, in your in your in your sort of conscious world. As I say most of us push that out of the way we don’t want we don’t want to go there, we don’t want to see that. You begin, you begin to wake up. This is called waking up how much because I really don’t like the word Enlightenment. I like the word awakening, because awakening is it describes it perfectly. Enlightenment to me is has got too many connotations awakening, you begin to wake up and an awakening isn’t this, you know, this breaks there, we see you with a breakthrough in your awaken. Actually awakening starts the moment you take the training on the moment that you’re prepared to turn around or look at yourself and begin to to investigate and to look in. And when these forces these, these forces begin to well, rather than run away from them or react to them as we do, as we spent our whole life doing. We learn to just stay with them and open to them. Leave them alone, let them come learn to bear with learners don’t feed them, that’s the key is not to feed something, right. So the in time if you don’t feed it, it begins to fade on whilst you’re staying with and you’re opening. And you’re looking, you’re beginning to see what’s going on what is going on here. Not what you think is going on. But what really is going on. And when you when you begin to see what’s going on, that’s called wisdom. And that wisdom will then be like a tool that will help you essentially, I think essentially learn to say, when a habit comes and you’re about to fall into your habits that may be good or bad. That may be something that you enjoy or not enjoy, but we’re just a bundle of conditioned habits. You can learn now you can begin to get a vision beginning to get an understanding of what’s going on here. You can say no, no, I’m not doing that. I’m not gonna I’m not gonna follow that. That’s, that’s, that’s the path that you embark upon. Now that path can be incredibly charming, very, very joyful, suddenly, the whole thing can burst open. And you can get you can get and you can, you can, you can convince yourself you’re awakened. Because you’re momentarily momentarily, you’re transcending the condition into what is the real, which is what is with you all the time is sitting there, it never goes away. It’s permanent. It sits there. And you get little glimpses, and a lot of pieces that can be likened, but only got us a glimpse, then the door shuts again, and you’re back in it with all of your stuff. Now you can choose to go down that path. That’s that’s actually his for the few, the people that want to get to the bottom of this, I’ve had enough of this, I’ve had enough of being enslaved to this, this mind of mine. And the and the fear of fear that controls my life and everything in my life seems to be based in fear, everything I do, I’m just either running away or looking after myself doing something to protect myself all the time. And that is you see the cause of suffering. So on that journey, it you can, as I say, by all means you can have these lovely times when everything is all peaceful and lovely. And why not because it’s a part of your natural makeup. you’re expressing who you really are. Because you really are at peace. You’re not internal, your true nature is not internal. So so if you put the conditions in place, you know like in meditation, you can begin to get a little taste of who you really are. But that’s impermanent or come and go. If you really want to make it something permanent, something, something that’s with you, when you’re not meditating, something in your daily life, just coming and going, the challenges that we have on a daily basis. If so that you don’t get pulled around by your habits. So things as it were just pass through, you don’t follow all the all of those. There’s ways that you’ve reacted in the past, you’ve got to get to know yourself. So that whatever it is, is reacting. You learn to see, look, here we go again, er, I’m off again, I’m feeling those habits, that, you know, could be very unpleasant. I’m about to say something to somebody, which is really, this is what I do. This is how I look after myself, you begin to see that this is what you’re creating for yourself, nevermind, the effect it has on other people. And so you you learn to you learn, you learn to say no, but you’re saying no, not just through blindness, but you’re learning to wake up. So you actually say no, through wisdom, you’re basically no, the way, the way to go beyond these habits is not to feed them. And I’m not feeding them anymore. And if you can learn to work with that, and this is, this is a lifetime, don’t give me this sort of five minute stuff. This is a lifetime. Because the stuff, what we got inside of ourselves is accumulated for so long. It doesn’t exhaust itself, just because you wanted to, it takes a lot of commitment, a lot of coming back and coming back. But in time in time, things begin to, to lose their power of you begins to become less of a bondage. And you get a sense of spaciousness, yeah, with your life. And on and on, you’ve got an On you go. We’re not even talking about Enlightenment, like, like the sort of breakthrough that the people talk about these, these things can happen. But this is the path. This is the nature of the path. And also you don’t, something I’ve noticed, and I’ve heard, I’ve listened to a lot of talks or a number of talks, and just trying to sort of understand them in relationship to how I understand my own personal experience. But how it fits the tradition is that, you know, believe it or not, you don’t have to have any ambition to be enlightened. You don’t have to make that an issue in your life. It doesn’t even have to cross your mind. It doesn’t have to be a motivation. You just want to be a better person. That’s actually what motivated me, I just, I didn’t see I didn’t like the ugliness that I saw inside me. And that was my motivation. I wanted to become somebody like a proper to true human beings, something that’s, that could be of use to, you know, to those around me. I honestly never ever, it never crossed my mind that I wanted to be awakened. I wanted that great breakthrough that you read about and you hear about it only, it only actually came to me two days before it happened. Actually, it just came out of the blue. I never even thought about it. But so what I’m saying is that that awakening experience actually has nothing to do with you. It’s none of your business. Your business is to find the equanimity in your makeup, in the in that relative in samsara, as we call it Sansara. The conditioned, the dualistic conditioning, that we create, we feed we nurture on a daily basis is that we learn we learn to to wake up and see this, this is this, this is the cause of bondage and the suffering and of the angst of life. And of course of rebirth, that that you that you that you focus on exclusively. That’s called the path, its result. Because it will, because it’s a natural, it’s a natural process doesn’t require you to do anything to make it happen deliberately. If you if you did that, I don’t see how it could because that to me is just attachment and desire to want that to happen. That that awakening is the natural fruit, of of maturity of finding that equanimity which we can talk about. It’s like, it’s like, you know, it’s like a fruit tree and apple tree, that that, that that that nurtures an apple. over weeks and months, I didn’t notice that it feeds that all the time. It feeds it, it grows and it gets bigger until it reaches full maturity. And then, and then it stops giving it any more nourishment. And then it sits there and one day the apple falls off the tree. The tree doesn’t shake the apple off the tree will the apple the Apple fall off when the time is ripe. When it’s ripe when it’s fully mature. And everything has been done. It will just naturally fall off. And that’s that I think that’s the perfect metaphor for this. That that whole and this is one of the things that sort of got to be a little bit that people seem to think that it’s something that you can manufacture deliberately that you can get to this in like this, this enlightened experience and that is that I noticed that that doesn’t pertain to the Buddhist path. You can you can talk about, people do talk about awakening and, you know, its consequences and the experiences that come out of that, fair enough. But that’s not really the path that’s, you know, that’s like an aspiration, something to do to encourage you and something to give you interest. But it isn’t the actual path itself. It isn’t the actual training. Because, as I say, the fruit the fruit because this is a wholly natural process, this is not manmade, we’re part of nature. You know, dharma Dharma, as is a major word in Buddhism, Dharma, meaning the truth. Another another, another definition of dharma, is nature. It’s nature’s natural, it’s got nothing to do with, you know, we think that we’re in control. You know, the world in the universe. But we are just part of a part of a natural, unnatural, mysterious unfolding. And when we estranged ourselves shorten, that when we find that place of equanimity, and chicken come to the fruit, the fruit will fall on its own, and it won’t fall until it’s ripe. And you will never make it fall by an act of will. And that that’s, that’s, that’s very, and that’s, that’s, you know, that’s very much part of the philosophy of Buddhism, which does seem to bump in bit to get to some of the things that are going on now.
Rick Archer: Right. So there’s a lot of could have said and questions I could have interjected and all that. Let’s just take your last point, you can never make it fall by an act of will. And yet, it seems that Buddhist meditation practice, from what I understand that is quite willful, there is an application of individual effort, I’m going to sit here, my knees are killing me. But I’m going to continue to sit here by golly. And you know, I’m not going to let this or that distract me. So there seems to be a rather fierce application of will, during the practice, at least initially. But I guess so. So comment on that for a minute. But let’s show
Āloka David Smith: Well, I used to because somebody says, I’m going to sit down and I can sit here willfully the Michigan being awakened. No. But there are no flying. Well, there is there is there is one feature of the training, that’s very, very difficult to pick to see to know, what is the difference between commitment, commitment in the training and willfulness? And to find the difference, because it’s very easy to be willful, is very easy to identify, I’m going to start to say, I’m going to sit and sit here for next 10 hours, nobody’s going to move me on to do this day after day. I don’t I don’t I don’t know what that’s because people do that doesn’t mean say that it’s right. People do people get people get things wrong, you know. But at the same time, there has to be this thinkable commitment. Whereby whereby this training is not there’s not you cannot do this trainee that’s going to bear any fruit. By having it as a sort of a part time thing that you’re doing like it’s a hobby, you just flick and flick out. And when it’s inconvenient, you go and want to go and do something else. And rather than Oh, come back to this training, or come back to my meditation, because it’s because it’s convenient for
Rick Archer: me. So let’s say you’re a really committed practitioner, you’re dedicated, and then you have a daily practice that you’re really committed to. So when you sit down to do that daily practice, are you applying a lot of individual will or what and work
Āloka David Smith: this thing, this thing, this this, this commitment is something you have to feel and find within you. willfulness, can be very, very obvious, I’m going to do this, I’m going to achieve that. You can’t do this without you can sit there and you have, I think conviction is, is probably one of the best words where where, you know, that unique conviction, if you want, if you want to get to the bottom of this is what if it’s what you want to you want to understand why you are the way that you are. You got to have a commitment but an inner commitment, something quite it’s like a quiet commitment, whereby and it’s not just sitting on the cushion, it’s your daily life. Don’t think this is all about sitting on your backside. That’s only a it’s a it’s the single most important issue part of it. But we have four postures in this training, what you’re doing, essentially on the cushion, which is learning to focus and be still and to open. You have to learn to take that into your daily life. So that becomes something that you experience throughout the day. No, that’s only possible through commitment. And it’s a quiet, Inner Inner determination. That’s not the same as willfulness. which which, which you can experience is something is something that nobody else in the world need know that you are a committed practitioner. You don’t go around with you don’t go around with a thing flashing on top of your head. Look at me. I’m a serious Dharma practitioner, I sit 10 hours a day, people talk to you in those terms, that there’s something missing there that that this smack of willfulness, it’s like, you know, you talk to people who actually are committed that Dusit. And it’s not about sitting hours and hours, every day, you do that on retreat, in your daily life, an hour an hour a day is more than enough, you’ve got a life to live, you go on retreat, that’s where you put a lot of you put a lot of hours, but you go about it in a quiet way. Nobody needs to know about it. But it’s just an inner determination, that that, you know, is in a different place than this. This this, this this willfulness?
Rick Archer: Okay, so you’re sitting for an hour a day or longer on retreat, and you’re sitting there willful, is the actual practice you’re doing. Sometimes images of strain and struggle and kind of an inner battle come to mind. And, and, you know, and that, to me, would make it a very unpleasant experience. All this kind of, you know, struggling with yourself. And but, but maybe there’s a subtler approach. And I wonder if this is how is what you what you would consider correct practice where there’s just a sort of a, an intention, and, you know, if the mind wanders off, you just bring it back, but without beating yourself up over it.
Āloka David Smith: That’s right, it’s an absolutely you don’t beat yourself that there is there is this is like, you know, you know, for me, it’s like, I signed, every time I sit on the cushion, I make a contract with myself. So for the next 14 minutes, which is as long as I said, I’m gonna sit still and as quiet as I can, and just give myself let go of all the distractions, whether it be physical, mental, or emotional, let them go and come, come to that place of stillness, that we’ve all got the dynamic exists that I’m familiar with. And when these things come in, that I’ve already committed myself to let them go. Now, when they come along, it’s not a case of get out away, don’t disturb me, I’m bad enough, you, you, you can’t go down that road that is willfulness, that is just suppression. If you’re doing that, you have to see them and know them. But know that you’re committed for the next 14 minutes, to come to that place of awareness to come into awareness, awareness, without boundaries of that stillness, that the desire, natural condition that you don’t manufacture, yeah, that you find that place. And you and you let, and you let these things go. As much as you can, you don’t get involved with them. And you don’t have opinions. You don’t try to, you know, do anything with but rather simply let them go and do your best. And if it doesn’t work, and it won’t. A lot of the time, though, they’ll they’ll when they’ll come in, you’ll be off in your fantasy for the next quarter of an hour. That’s the way it is. Okay? So you are you don’t you don’t start beating yourself up. Okay, this is this is so important. You have to let it go and determine just to come back into that stillness.
Rick Archer: That’s why, because when somebody tells me that they sit and meditate, and it’s kind of a really unpleasant experience for half an hour or whatever, I wonder, are they struggling? You know, are they straining? Are they kind of actually introducing a much more individual effort, then is then is really called for in the situation?
Āloka David Smith: Let me get, let me give you an example. With that, you know, you know, one of the something I always encourage my students to do, because they can come to the group, and they have all sorts of different postures and things. And I try and try and sit in the half lotus. And there’s not many can just some people can just somebody will sit in the full lotus, but a half lotus, for most of us were some people is challenging, because we just don’t have suppleness of body. But it’s doable. But very, very rarely is it just given to you on a play. You have to sit sometimes for weeks and months. And it’s very difficult you get you can’t, you can’t avoid the fact that this is painful. But what you do, but what you can do there is that you develop a relationship with that experience. You develop a relationship with that thing called Pain, my pain my body, and you learn to sit with it. And you learn to see you learn to open to an exit you don’t run away from that pain, you don’t suppress it and push it away in any way. But in time if you learn to learn to stay with it and stay with it and stay with it, and see that not my Pain is pain doesn’t belong to me. This actually doesn’t doesn’t belong to this body, and this body doesn’t belong to me and what you can do, you’re not avoiding the experience. But what What you’re doing is that you’re learning to take the meeting me or me and my meet me and my pain me and my suffering. That when that when you when you go down that road, me and my pain me most of the newer compound that I love, the way I like to describe it, is that you make mountains out of mole hills, mole hills, that’s life, there’s always going to be mole hills, that’s the nature of this round that we live in. But we make mountains out of molehills, and you learn and you learn just through learning to sit with that. That can be incredibly and I know personally speaking, you know, I stopped half lotus for nearly all my meditation years. But it wasn’t given to me on a plate, I really had to sit sit through that. But I tell you, I learned so much about attachment, I learned so much about me. And I learned how to just bear with to stay with and to not identify with that experience, and leave it as a molehill rather than rather than make into a mountain. That is that is that there is so much understanding there for you, for you to access, but you have to sit through it. And you sit through it in the right way you don’t sit me well, why me, my legs are going to be a cripple, I’m never going to be able to meditate again. Me, me, me, me, me, me, me. That’s what you got to see through there, you make it a mountain. And by golly, you will suffer, you will suffer far more than then you need to. This is the inner, inner inner thing, which is okay, I sit with it, I won’t, I won’t. I won’t fight it, I won’t run away from it. I just learned to sit with it. These are the subtler and subtler subtleties of the path that you have to learn to cultivate the inner strength. And what that does, as well as the insightful thing is that when you learn to sit through things, you get inner strength, something that a lot of us don’t have, we run away from things in life, we got money in our pocket, we don’t have to bear with anything that we that we don’t like most of us, we don’t like in our life, we can buy ourselves out of difficult situations. Okay, you can do this? Well, that’s probably one of the main reasons why money is so important to us, because it can help us look after ourselves. But you won’t learn anything about yourself, you avoid yourself. This way you learn to sit and you learn to see what you’re creating for yourself. Just but that that’s this the subtleties of this training that you can only do through trial and error. Because you will react in the way you’ve always reacted. But you have to learn to let those let those habits go and go beyond those habits. And that then gives you the experience and gives you the inner strength. So when the next thing comes along, because there will be something around the corner, you learn to just bear with their words, you know, there’s a there’s a very important concept in Buddhism called Prashanti. Patience, but patient endurance, patient endurance, that is so critical, so crucial on this whole of letting go this thing that we are trapped by this, this this this thing that we called samsara, that we create for ourselves. This is all part of the subtlety of the of the path that we learn. And if it’s willful, if you if you and you can’t help with being willful in the beginning, because you don’t know anything else, but you have to learn to hang on a minute, you discover that other part of you that has the inner strength to sit and bear with things without getting up there. You know, waving an axe or a hammer or something. I’m going to beat you. You’ve got that attitude. All you do is all you do is reinforce yourself. That’s all you’re doing. You’re just creating a more entrenched ego, ego. Yeah. You know, which is not what we’re meant to be up to.
Rick Archer: Yeah, good point. So let me circle back to something you said a few minutes ago, you said that the desire for awakening or something didn’t really become strong until a couple of days before it actually happened. So what actually tells you about your awakening?
Āloka David Smith: Okay, well, I’ve just sort of given you all it’s important to put all these other things in place first, because I don’t want you to get the impression that it’s just, he just fell out of the sky is that right now? You really know. This is years of, I believe, to be dedicated commitment. Sure. So so the things things fall away and make this event possible. Not that that’s what I did as a monk, I used to sit I used to sit a lot every day as a monk. That’s what you do. Once a week, that’s what you get paid for. You don’t get paid but that’s your job. If you’re if you’re that sort of practitioner, you will sit a lot and I did sit a lot of day. But then But then there was a three month retreat that I decided had to do and just to be on my own a solitary retreat on my own. And so I upped everything for that. And it was only three or four days, three days before before the event, as I call it, when I knelt before my brother, which is what I do every day and bow my head, enough, enough of this Sansara off of this David thing or our locus, well, okay, then David use my other name. Continually handing it into the, into that into that part that I was alluding to before, that was, with me, opening, opening up, showing me the way, developing a relationship, knowing that that was supporting me, opening up seeing something that was mysterious, something that was that was inconceivable, something that I would never, ever be able to possess, ever be able to own, only to have respect for only to have, walking, delivering on and to and to see the greatness of something that I was beginning to touch. So every time I, I would kneel and bow my head is all religious people to spiritual people do whatever they whatever they, you know, whatever reason why they’re doing it for me, it was to surrender this me thing to that part of me, that was supporting me. And whilst doing that, and also asking for the help support, because it’s so different. With these forces coming to you all the time. So difficult. Please help me, you know, help support me while I sit through this. And by golly, it was there was absolutely and there’s only when I was doing that, you know, saleman be sitting all these weeks, please help me. They just it just came up. And I just said, I’m not, I’m not gonna I’m not gonna leave this discussion. I’m not gonna leave this retreat until I’m awaken. And as soon as I said that, I would what, where did that come from? It was, it was absolutely spontaneous. There was no thought whatsoever. I didn’t claim it wasn’t part of the heart of this stuff. It just spontaneously came out, which, which is very interesting that that happened. And I promise you, that’s the first time in almost all my years of practice, did my mind ever go in that direction of awake? Ever?
Rick Archer: Think that’s radical, I remember hearing a story about a guy who lit an incense stick, and he said, if I’m not enlightened, by the time this incense sticks burns down, I’m going to kill myself. Somehow, I guess he managed to get enlightened before
Āloka David Smith: she was setting, you are setting yourself up here. I would recommend, I wouldn’t recommend this to people. Because you’re creating a tension there within yourself that Oh, my God, I got to do it, and you go down that road, you’re in trouble. Because you can’t it’s not as I say, it’s not something that you can make manufacture. It popped up, it came out. It surprised me. But at the same time, but at the same time I put it to one side, it wasn’t something that suddenly, you know, sitting in front of me, I just put it to one side. But what I you know, to make this interesting to make this you know, rather than me just gets a bit that you want me to get to this whole this whole path that focuses exclusively on the on the on the condition on the new you have you have what is it called the the the the part of you that’s much forgotten the word for a moment is what is what we live in is what we caught by bullets recorded Sansara relative and the absolute this is this is the relative the relative means that it’s the DIS dualistic with the district creation. That the whole of Buddhism, as I say, the whole of Buddhist practices focuses on this phenomenon. And that phenomenon, the way it works, the nature that works is that it’s dualistic. And it’s about feeding it and it’s like something that oscillates all the time like this you feed I like I don’t like this is good, that’s bad I want I don’t want it cetera. And all the time you’re feeding one side or the other. And you’ve been you bounce if you look at yourself. Everything into reality requires the other side nothing exists on its own it has to have a sort of an opposite. So that so that this thing and that so the whole phenomenon is this thing that’s that’s going like this, that that’s that’s maintaining its existence by by being fed. With, with with with stuff Have the fees one side or the other. So the whole thing keeps go. Now, when you come to dharma Dharma training, that’s about stop feed your learning to stop on being technical, now you’ll learn to stop feeding it by learning, as I touched on earlier, of not of not following your habits, by learning to say no to things, and what you’re doing is that you’re no longer feeding something that keeps this thing going like this. So in time, this thing that goes like this begins to lose its massive power, massive grip that it has upon you, and begins to begin to come back into some sort of equilibrium. You know, long, because if you don’t feed it, this is what will happen, it will come like it needs to be fed, Oh, I like I don’t like, I’m right, you’re wrong. You know, whatever, whatever how you engage with it mentally, emotionally, is this thing that we call samsara, you know, that, that the relative. So what’s the whole, the whole path of Dharma training that was not seen in these terms, I don’t know if I’ve ever heard or expressed these terms, is it’s about bringing those two things, so they come into equilibrium. So you reach the point where you no longer feed, literally, you’re no longer feeding. It’s just called equanimity. equanimity, technically is called equanimity towards formations, whereby you enter a period. And this is not done by an act of will. This is the natural process of letting go. So the thing becomes more and more a sense of equilibrium. And then you reach the real, the real refining part, where you literally do not hold on to anything, whatever thoughts come into your mind. And you think, and then you think you think as you think. But you don’t hold on to anything, everything you just have complete and utter disinterest in everything. And I mean, literally everything. And for me, this went on for, I think it’s two weeks, three weeks, where, and of course, one of the things that you’re not interested in is you’re not interested in meditation anymore. But still, you drag yourself to the cushion, and you sit and you do your best to be still and open and all of us. But at the same time, this is the way I experienced it was a sense of incredible frustration. Because I just couldn’t find I could do anything, please send Let me grab anything just to get, you know, just to give me a bit of interest. And you enter that period, where and that’s nothing to do with. With me, there’s not an act of well, you’ve reached a point now, where something else has taken over something that’s beyond your consciousness beyond what you do. And you sit in that, and you sit in that in that place. And until that matures, and of course you don’t know how long that’s going to go on for me. For me, it went on, it lasted. It kicked in right at the beginning of the retreat, actually. And it was a couple of weeks something that I think I wrote in the book, I can’t remember two to three week, two weeks of really, it was really difficult because I was just so, so bored. And so thinking, What the hell am I doing this fall, I’ve just lost all motivation. Nothing interests me at all. And you sit there. And when that reaches perfect equilibrium, remember, it has to feed itself to live, falls away, it collapses. And when it collapses, that’s the that’s the conditioned, your conditioned mind that you’ve been enveloped by all of your life falls away. It then opens into what is reality the unconditioned, your true nature. Buddha Nature Dharmakaya shunyata all these words that we wrap around that, so it’s not like you die. You do die, actually, in England said it’s called the Great death when you literally die as a person. You literally die.
Rick Archer: Well, that feels right, but
Āloka David Smith: yeah, well, it’s fortunately it doesn’t go on so long. It is it is it is a complete collapse of your whole conscious makeup. But there’s a part of you that’s not part of that. And that bit, that bit is a bit in yours. But it’s like you just lose all. You just lose it. There’s nothing there. But there is this knowing this and knowing that which is beyond this samsaric world that that’s who you really are. That part of you that never dies Is this permanent, that does this dies, that this doesn’t die. And, and then after a few moments, it’s difficult to put a time on it because you’re not in time. But it’s clearly not that long as it were, so to speak, the whole world comes, it doesn’t just come back as a sort of flash, you come rushing. You imagine, you imagine, like somebody having playing music on the other side of a door, and you’ve got the door closed, and you can’t hear it. But when you open the door, it rushes out you it doesn’t sort of go like that, but it sort of rushes out here. So the whole of your consciousness rushes back. And then when you recover from that, because what the hell was that? That was that was my, the first thoughts that came was what, what was that? And so you just relax, and I just I was on the Christian at the time I was sitting when this happened. You sit there for a few moments, and then you begin to realize what’s happened, you know, which is very emotional, actually. But then what happens then is that you begin to realize that, you know, this is just to sit me. You’ve done it. That sounds egotistical, but you know, you can’t help but say that, God. But then it begins to open up, you begin to find yourself in the Dharmakaya. This is this is reality, you’re not in your samsaric world, you’re saying sorry, world is marginalized. And there’s a part of the unconditioned. It’s is revealing itself, with manifest and you begin to see what is reality, who you really are. This is not some objective thing. This isn’t, you’re not watching, watching a movie. This is who you really are. This is who we all are, that we’ve got, we’ve thrown a veil over it and got lost in this nonsense that we create and chase after and get caught by. But at that time, and it that that that revelation can go on, it depends on the person. But it becomes clear that you know, this is reality. And then what happens then you just begin to see your sank sattwic world, what it’s all about, you know, the Buddha, the Buddha, he one of his famous teachings, one of the cornerstones of his teachings, called the Four Noble Truths is that there is suffering, you don’t have to be very clever to see that one. But there is, but there is a cause of suffering. There is a cause of suffering, and there is a way out of suffering. And there is a path that will take you out of suffering, that isn’t something that he invented, that’s something reveals itself. That’s the nature of your samsara, you see it, that, that it’s nothing but suffering. It’s all of that it’s just an absolute mess, that has no beginning and no, you, you just go. And of course, what’s totally integral with all of this is the is the revelation and the end, the acceptance, which Westerners, so many Westerners have a real problem with these days of rebirth of karma and rebirth, that it’s just a continuous flow. Many of us Westerners now that because we can’t prove it, therefore, I don’t accept it. But you see that this samsaric thing with the energy that it creates the massive energy etc, it just rolls on, it’s like a juggernaut. That will do just because your body falls to bits, you know, you think you think that’s the end, you must be joking, what it will do due to circumstances, another one gets created, and it’s literally doesn’t have an end, end or beginning and you’re stuck with that all the time. And you can see how it how it maintains itself. It shows its nature, that is suffering. And the reason why why it maintains itself is because because if your desire that you’ve always attaching, that’s why it exists. But then you see there’s a way out of suffering, that actually there is an end to this, this isn’t all doom and gloom, but that you have to go about it in a very very particular way. And that’s called the path and this is what it will take you to this place that you to this equilibrium where the whole thing falls away and it reveals you awaken to your true nature, your Buddha nature and and all the wonders and all the wonders an inconceivable experience are offered which is so emotional, but it’s just so full of insight that it just rains down continued for meat just ran down for days never stopped. Everything just revealing itself, show show it’s showing itself. And it shows it starters. It shows it starters of, you know, the strategies reality, if you like that it takes you to the ultimate, which is the ultimate of sugar is all emptiness. It’s also new to us, you need to have some black and white thing. Soon you too. It’s almost like it’s got different structures. And because you experienced one decision, well it is But hang on, there’s a bit more to this than than what you’ve done what you think you think. And the ultimate Strasser is when you see all phenomena is independent is its own independent thing. But at the same time, it contains every other thing in the whole universe, every other every other element, every other form, whatever that form. Not only that, but it contains everything that’s in the past. Everything in the future is there in front of you, is called interpenetration. That’s the ultimate shooter. That’s where you go. You know, as I say, certainly if you go down the path, this way you were you take on, you take so much on when you when you enter this path, that when the when the fruit finally drops. It’s not just a little, a little taster. So it’s often the case can be, but actually it’s, it’s true. And you know, What’s touching it now is quantum physics, quantum physics, that’s now beginning to break through and what quantum physics. I mean, I have absolutely no trouble with it. Because it’s going to express in reality that this is unique. But you know, we got to, we got to go beyond putting it under a microscope or making against some objective understanding for the scientists and these people who are very drawn to this, that, that, that are being drawn into to understanding it, sooner or later, we’ve got to realize is that they really want to understand quantum physics, they’ve got to turn all of that objective stuff that they’re looking into going out there, like all scientists to think of one day, they got to take that and turn it within themselves. And when they do, then they see in this completeness, some of them actually some Well, that’s fantastic, because that’s where it is, right? That’s where it is, it isn’t an objective reality. In
Rick Archer: fact, there are quantum physicists who have been meditating for decades and are kind of in a scientific way drawing the correlation between consciousness and the unified field and so on. But, um, I wanted to ask you, so this happens you in 1981, which was 33 years ago, nearly half a lifetime ago for you. And and then you mentioned strata of shunyata. So, in the last 33 years, have you been kind of progressing through these strata? What’s been unfolding over 33 years,
Āloka David Smith: the way the way it works? And this is this is one that defeat so many people, so many people think, Well, that’s it. I finished, I’ve done it. I’ve seen a No, put the feet up, got my money, get the cigar out. And just cruise for the rest of life. Actually, it’s only the beginning, right? Because what you’ve got, the way that it works is that you have you awakened mind now, which you never had before. And you can’t imagine that you can’t create it. I don’t care smart and clever. You are what margination you don’t you don’t you don’t know the unconditioned mind, which is not necessarily a nice way. You don’t you don’t know your true nature until you’ve awakened to it. And to do you have that. But also, you still have the residue of your samsara. It’s not as powerful as it used to be because you have this thing that’s undeniable that sits there that you have. You’re incapable of doubt. You cannot doubt you can doubt your practice all the way along. Am I doing it right? Is it right? am I wasting my time? etc. Once you break through, you see and you know, and nothing it’s unshakable, your doubt is unshakable. I mean, there is no doubt you cannot doubt the path you cannot doubt what it leads to. So you have that like a rock as it were, I was six and you’ve got this other fellow over here. It’s quite good to use two hands here. You’ve got this other fellow. It’s the absolute and the relative. You have the relative still wants a piece of the action is still always poking its nose in trying to get you to follow your habits, which you do. And you can still follow quite crude habits. But hopefully if you stick out there, if you stick Got it. Slowly, slowly alone, you know, you know, the way out of stuff is not to feed, leave it alone, let it fade, not good, it’s not bad, you don’t engage with it, you don’t have conflict, leave it alone, let it burn itself out like a fire that you no longer throw fuel on. If you want to fire to go out, and you should not throw fuel on it, however big the fire is, sooner or later, it’s got to go out. It’s exactly the same principle. If you don’t throw fuel on it, it will it will slowly slowly burn itself out. And this becomes ever more prominent, because there is this it’s kind of cloudy, though over and you know, in which it succeeds from time to time to some degree. But it’s always freeing yourself because it’s, it’s, it’s the milestone is the real thing. This is not real, this is pure imagination or pure, pure pure fiction 100% fiction. So it has no body, it has no depth, depth and strength through it really is more like a it’s a mirage, whereas this is something so this will and you know, then the way Zen describes it is is that is that the practice after the breakthrough is that you protect the advancing host. This is the guest This is the host, the guest is always interfering, wanting, but you keep you keep ship steady. You meditate, you live a lifestyle where you’re not feeling this fellow any more than, you know any more than that can have a new a new just dedicate yourself to carrying on with the training, in essence, no different than first day you started. But now you got a vision. Now you see. And of course it is different, profoundly different. But at the same time, it’s no different. It’s no different because you’re learning to let go still, exactly, you’re learning to let go. The same as you did on the first day when you came to the Training, you’ll you’ll end into the SOFIA advancing host. You protect your state, like the Tibetans like to Ben’s call it the view that if you heard that the view where you just you stay present, you don’t wander off into the future or the past where your feet are, what you’re doing and drinking a cup of tea drinking glass of water. That’s it nothing special. That’s the view that’s that staying with the advancing host just leave it alone, because actually goes itself, you don’t you don’t make it you don’t make it become more more more prominent. It’s a natural, irreversible process. And whether you put it off in this lifetime, maybe, or whether whether you don’t, and you still got this residue here that will then create further lives. Nevertheless, you will come back to that, to that. So so the advancing host, actually, you’re saying
Rick Archer: that even though this awakening has taken place, there can be further lives because of the residue?
Āloka David Smith: Oh, yeah.
Rick Archer: Okay. So it’s not some kind of ultimate Enlightenment, it’s some sort of stage of awakening.
Āloka David Smith: It is it is if it is authentic, if it’s authentic, it’s irreversible, you’ve done something now that you can’t turn you can’t turn, turn back, you can hang it out. By buying into your, into your old world, by all means is that says I’ve had enough of this, I’m gonna smoke a cigar every day. And do that fair enough. And you may even sort of really sort of covered over and your life but it’s awakened. And it will, it will in time, however, however many lives and not many, it will it will. This, this, this, this, this guest this samsara this, these habits that you’ve created, that the karma, the karma that you’ve created, will fade, and then that’s that’s that, you know, in Buddhism as its Buddhahood, you know, that’s, that’s the Buddha, and that’s those that reach Buddha. He’s not the only one that’s reached that and there’s plenty they’re having the time, but there’s a whole there’s a whole path that goes in Mahayana Buddhism, it’s called the bodhisattva path, the Burmese where you work through, it’s called the boom with the 10 stages, where you work through the characteristics of this and the world that it creates the dualistic world that it creates a you buy into begins to unpick, it begins to unpick so that it slowly it slowly becomes you know, important.
Rick Archer: So do you have any way of estimating how much of it you’ve worked through in the past 33 years and how much there’s left to work
Āloka David Smith: there. Now I love I love out tomorrow be nice but doesn’t doesn’t work. You’ve got attachment around these things. Is when you know we are we are nothing but creatures of attachment. And we do all the time. This, this you just gotta let go, trust it, go with it. You know, do your best be as committed as you can not be not be, you know not be half hearted. But at the same she sees is so difficult to be to be wholehearted to be wholehearted. And I think this is one of the ultimate challenges for all of us to be wholehearted with what you do, but not want anything in return. For you get yourself into that place where you are wholehearted with your training that you have no, you have no I’m not doing this because I want to get that you do it for its own sake, which is to become a human being. And you know, is your humanizing it is that whole path is just about becoming a human being for as long as you’re a human being. It’s the innate qualities that our Buddha nature have. So they begin to shine through of compassion, of love, of forgiveness, empathy, all of these qualities that we all admire, in people, you don’t make any of these, you don’t make them. They’re inherent within all of us, that they’re an expression of our true nature. And so and so you begin to you begin to experience that you’d be and you know, how right it is, and how good you feel about becoming a human being. And you just want to carry on because it’s a lovely place to be, you know, not like it used to be in the old days when you just spend your life, you know, running after things and people and wanting this and wanting crashing and banging all over the place. So you get your own way. Now you just you just let go and allow the thing to unfold. And when it ends, who knows?
Rick Archer: I know you’re gonna give me that answer. But it’s want to ask. But aside from that, though, how, if it’s possible, how would you describe the nature of your day to day moment to moment experience now as compared to 1020 30 years ago? Is do you see a trajectory of as you walk down the street? Now? What is the aura, as you sit talking to me, what is the nature of your experience as compared to what it was, you know, when you first had that awakening, or a week or a year after that awakening,
Āloka David Smith: on Attachment, much more. So? Yeah, you’ve just learned to go with things, things don’t things don’t bother you. And so things sort of pass through you, you have, you have much more of a lightness, you don’t you don’t carry you don’t carry this self burden, which is that that’s gone. Even though all of this stuff is associated with the notion of it’s because the self is just, it’s just a creation, it’s never existed. It’s a phenomenon that that manifests when the conditions are right. And when the conditions break up, the notion of itself disappears. So that that that self notion can still pop around. But it only takes the other part of you just to hang on a minute, and just have a quick look. Say, No, no, no, no panic just vanishes. So if you and that happens, you know, that happens on on, you know, I run a group with lots of people. And you can imagine things don’t always go the way that you want them to go. And that’s all part of the, you know, that’s part of my training is I do my best. And I can see if there’s any self of me in there, or whether I’m prepared to let things unfold more naturally, and sort of rather help rather than hinder. You know, whether whether all the students would agree with that. I know, I don’t know. But certainly where I’m coming from. Everything is so easily, I don’t feel like I’m carrying anything. I really, I don’t I don’t think I’ve been carrying in life, to be honest with you, and the desire for life. But at the same time, we’re prepared to live it wholeheartedly. That’s the paradox. The first time we use the word paradox, we’ll have to get into that. That’s, that’s, that’s the paradox there. That, you know, like I say, you give yourself wholeheartedly. But at the same time, you know, that it’s all just a game, just a game, you know, don’t, don’t get carried away by.
Rick Archer: So if you were to take one yardstick by which you could measure the, the development that’s taking place in the last 33 years, it would be growth of on Attachment, spontaneity, smooth ease, ease of living, just kind of
Āloka David Smith: there is there is that and of course, what makes that possible is not it’s not a thought process. It’s also a growing realization, shouldn’t it? Yeah, should should you too, is is is a terminal piece.
Rick Archer: I’m not suggesting it’s something you’re thinking about just the natural way you naturally function.
Āloka David Smith: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. But everything that everything as it matures, and the more and the more you let go, certainly in the beginning you can be it can still be quite difficult in the beginning. But you like you like, after years? That the whole notion is Shouldn’t your term becomes more and more sits in front of you much more? And when should you to sits in front of you, then you don’t grab anything?
Rick Archer: Yeah. Okay, good. So in the notes, the sentiment, he said, I’ve been listening to many non dual talks lately and have been struck by the difference in how reality is revealed to the non dual adherent and the Buddhist practitioner, like to talk on this difference, not from theory, but from my own direct experience of awakening. And as you know, you know, it’s a topic that has come up in a lot of my interviews, in fact, somebody sent me this t shirt or paradox on me. And so and I read in your book about the discussion of paradox, and how there are a lot of non dual teachers out there these days saying, you’re, you’re already awakened, you’re already enlightened, you don’t need to do anything, so on and so forth. And then you discuss, you know, how they’re perhaps just kind of stuck in an absolute view, and absolutely relative both have to be taken into account. So let’s discuss that whole area for a bit.
Āloka David Smith: Well, to be able, this is this is where I think it’s the freedom of the freedom of insight that your insight is, is an authentic inside, rounded insight is that, like, the paradox, here you are, you have the absolute, where you have, you know, you have your enlightened nature, everything is perfect, you don’t make anything, you don’t go anywhere, there’s nothing to do nothing to be. But at the same time, you’ve got the relative world where you’re caught up in all the daily activities where you’re caught up in the cells and desires and stuff. And like for a teacher and of your own your own understanding of yourself, you and the two side by side, and of course they don’t make it doesn’t make sense. You have that. And I think unless you unless unless in your training, you have specifically focused this is what’s really important, I think, unless you specifically specifically focused on the relative aspect of yourself, ie your sensory your suffering, I spent, literally years looking at it, you don’t get you don’t wait yourself through that. In a short time. If you don’t, if you don’t wage yourself through that, and get and get to know it, then you’re not you’re not going to know it and you have an experience of this thing that suddenly pops out of nowhere. This thing is reality, I’ve seen reality, you have no you have no experience no knowledge of the relative of the paradox, you see yourself one side, and you can see it I’ve you know, I’ve listened to people, so many people, the thing that the thing that immediately gets the bell going for me is when people have their enlightened experience, and immediately go and write a book, they make a video and they go out and teach them immediately become a teacher. As soon as somebody does that. I think there’s something not right here. You’ve missed something here. Because if you think that you’ve cracked it, that you’ve done it, and you can sit with your cigar smoking, I don’t think it works that way. I think what you’ve done, you’ve had a taste, and I would never, I would never put myself in a place of judging people have the authenticity of their awakening. But what so many people don’t seem to realize that reality isn’t what isn’t a thing. It isn’t, this is reality, reality isn’t a thing at all. It has no parameters, no colors is not an object in any way. So therefore, you can’t pin it down and say, This is reality, you can get a taste, you can certainly get a taste a touch of it. But hang on. You you’ve you’ve there’s an awful lot more to this than than what you’ve experienced. But but but the difficulty with this, and I totally appreciate this, again, from my own experience, that when you get a taste of reality, a taste of something, well, let’s say a taste of something that’s beyond your normal condition, dualistic world. The experience can be so so powerful, like nothing that you’ve experienced in your life. I don’t know what you’ve done in your life. But Everything pales into insignificance, that you are so utterly convinced. This is it. This is got to be the real thing that you become so attached to that, that you think Well, as I say, I’ve done it. I’m fully awake, and I’m now gonna go and spread the word to everybody. But what you don’t have, that you don’t have the experience of a path. So when these people come along to you and say and be very inspired by your story, I’m very interested by your story. So of course fantastic. How do I do it? And you said, Well, just let go. Because Because you’re awakened anyway. Just let all that nonsense go. And then you go well hang on a minute. You might be I had to do that. But I can’t I’m just completely stuck with my with my self self identity. How do I how do I work on that self identity, so that I can get to your play that self identity, that’s the path. And if you haven’t walked the path, you cannot know it, I don’t care how to I don’t care what you Enlightenment is, if you’ve not walked the path and seen the subtleties, and see the utter, utter, amazing way it is constructed, you think it’s just something very simply put an ad is not the subtlety of it is beyond, it is beyond your imagination, you cannot know it is so clever, the way that it has ways of holding you. You can’t know that until you’ve gone on that journey yourself and seen it. So when people come to you, and this is what I’ve been bolt, so many times, I’ve heard people talk about their experiences a call that’s really, really interesting. And I always wait for the punch line at the end. And there isn’t a punch line. Because they they just talk about themselves all the time. And then you say, Yeah, great, but how do I do? Well just wake up, when you can’t do 99.9% of us can’t do that 99% of us need help and support. And we need, we need to work our way through the thing that’s preventing us from waking up. And that thing is, this is the is the relative is samsara is the identify with the self is the world that we create, that we live in, that we’re attached to, that is who we consider to be, this is me, this, that can totally consumes us. That’s what you have to work through. In order to experience and Buddhism Buddhism is, that’s all Buddhism is, it’s about working through that weather doesn’t care about the absolute. It will take care of itself, okay can be an inspiration, it can be interesting. But hang on, just because you know a bit about it, that’s not going to help you, you’ve got to learn, you’ve got to learn to let go, you’ve got to learn to become let go of your attachment to put it simply. But it’s not a simple, simple thing to do. To do to let go means you’re letting go itself, and you’re in you are your volunteer, you’re volunteering dying, as a self as a self entity, as a separate self entity, you’re giving that up, you don’t get that doesn’t happen, that doesn’t happen by an act of will. And it doesn’t happen easily. You have to learn to work through it. And it takes is it takes years. So this is the bit that throws me when I hear this, these people with the wonderfully interesting, inspiring stories is great for them. But I don’t see what use other than inspiring I don’t see what use is for because as I say most of us, we need help, please hold your hand. And just I know I’ve got to do it. And I know it’s a paradox. And I know that none of this really exists because I believe you. But reality is the only thing that will and all the things that I’m caught by that the that define my life. I know it’s all imagination. None of its real is but still, for me. It’s real. And I can’t let it go. How do I let that go? Well, that’s it in Buddhism, it’s clearly clearly clearly mapped out.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I mean, the Buddha didn’t say, Okay, folks, you’re all enlightened, congratulations, you can go on. Even though, right, he gave them practices and techniques. And, you know, go ahead.
Āloka David Smith: Now just say that this is this is where I know, because I have my own personal experience here. This is not just an interesting subject. I have my own experience with this. And of course, I do take a bit of interest when I hear of when I hear about other people’s and people so much out there and in your face with this, that I I’ve got to look at it and compare it to my to my understanding and see that there’s just there’s so much missing here. It’s okay for you. And I would doubt while people while people sit in the absolute and so to say to the people that come to the meetings, just let go just let go. To me that clearly displays to me that they that they don’t know about the relative.
Rick Archer: I’m not even sure all of them know about the absolute I mean, I’ve talked about No, no,
Āloka David Smith: no. Well, okay, but they think they do. Yeah, but this but this is where the word paradox comes in. This is what they stand on one side is like this, what they can’t do is step to the other side, which is a complete contradiction to what you just said. But actually be comfortable with that because it is a paradox. This This isn’t black or this isn’t black and white and, and, you know, to the two dimensional and some some lateral reality. That’s not how it is. And that’s, that’s that’s that’s, you know, that’s that’s that’s what I struggle with with this And the fact that people, you know, for me, if I can say, you know, I’m talking to you like this, you know, whether people want to believe or not. That’s, that’s another thing. But but you know, in Buddhism, what I’ve been talking about and being so open with you is a taboo, for most Buddhist traditions is not done. It’s not, it’s just not. There were plenty of people within it within the traditions who do break through, but they don’t get up and they don’t talk about indirect ways their teachings express their understanding. They don’t get up and say, Look at me, I’m this, and I’m that. But because I’m not actually I don’t belong. I’m not affiliated or committed to any specific traditions. This, what is it? What is a, it’s not a major issue, but it’s something is something that you don’t do in any of the traditions. And I’ve always struggled with why that why these people can’t get up and serve. And I’ve always struggled with, I can understand some of the reasons why not. But but also it can be incredibly positive to to say to people, you know, I’ve broken through, and then it can be very inspiring. And I now have history of actually coming out because I call it which is goes back, whatever it is 5033 years. No, no, no, no, no one no, no, no. When I when I No, no, when I when I mean, I carried this, I carried this for for 18 years, before I say anything. I wrote the manuscript back in the late 80s For my own amusement, threw it in a desk and left it there for years, and then took it out some years later cleaned it up. And to my to my surprise, somebody offered to publish it, I send it to sangharakshita, who’s the founder of the what’s now called the tree Ratner community, which used to be called the Fw BRM is a worldwide. And I sent I sent my manuscript in because I knew it’s the only person I knew that will be able to run over my manuscript and see it from a technical point of view, whether there’s any problems with their sheets, or any sort of something, things, things were wrong. And to my surprise, he wrote back and he liked what he saw. And he says a lot, maybe I can get this published for you. And when the book came out, which is 18 years, 18 years after the event, I went public, as it were, and I wrote about a specificity of my first but my record of awakening actually, is more as he talks about that, that that experience, but it took me 18 years before I came out, you know, I didn’t get up there after five minutes and start exclaiming, and what you what needs to be realized in those 18 years, as I’ve maturing, you know, it would have been so different if I’d got out there. You know, a few weeks after I started, I didn’t know, proclaiming something. It’s so different, what it would be now, because now I’ve had I’ve had all these years of, of maturity of polishing, as I like to say, more clarity around the whole, the whole phenomenon, the whole experience. That you know, and that actually is traditional people, people take years and years and years before they come out and say sort of expose themselves like that. But when I see when I see so much of this going on now, I can’t get out there quick enough. Yeah, most of them alone.
Rick Archer: Right? even heard of heard stories of people in various site signs saying geez, I can’t wait to get awakened so I can quit my shitty job and get out there and be the teacher. Yeah, there’s a there’s a Tibetan proverb you may have heard, which is Don’t mistake understanding for realization, don’t mistake realization for liberation. And I think there’s a lot of people who they attain an understanding of the non dual nature of things and you know, the Enlightened nature of the self and all that stuff, and mistake down understanding for for realization, and actually begin teaching without really having been grounded in the experience. And you know, what to say of a more mature thing that might happen years after an actual awakening, and it’s kind of like, and then they are saying to people, oh, you’re already that you’re already enlightened. You don’t need to do anything. It’s sort of like your aunt Matilda, you know, bequeath you a fortune. And someone tells you, hey, you’re a millionaire. And you start running around the street saying, I’m a millionaire. I’m a millionaire, but you actually haven’t figured out how to access the bank account. So you’re still living like a popper, you know, they still can’t afford to pay your rent and whatnot, because you actually haven’t gotten your hands on that money. So I think there’s, there’s a lot of that to where people sort of have this, this kind of they talk the talk in terms of being enlightened and be and they kind of understand that essentially, we all are, and that sense of my dog is, but there’s not the actual living experience of it.
Āloka David Smith: And that, you know, and I find that, I find that sad, because a lot of people are buying into that, because it’s something you can bind to so easily should be sitting on a cushion for 10 years. Precisely, you can vote, you can bind to that, you know, genuine people who are looking who are looking to, to get to the bottom of, you know, the human condition, that this is what this is what they really want to do. And their first contact is to come up against something that there is no way it’s not going to happen for them, I’m sorry, you need a teacher, you cannot do this without a teacher. And you need the right support around you while you follow and what you get to know so things fall away. So the reality begins to begins to open up for you. That’s the way that it’s done, you’re not going to do this on your own. And if you’ve woken up on your own, and I don’t deny that, that you’ve had a taste of reality, but don’t think that’s, that’s the end of it, that’s the end of that is reality, you’ve tasted it, you’ve licked it, you’ve touched it, fantastic. Take it as an inspiration, don’t take it as something to attach yourself to and get out there and say I’ve done it, take it wow, I’ve touched you know, I’ve gone beyond all this nonsense, that is fantastic thing, go and find somebody who’s who can help you mature that you can help to bring you into the relative because that’s where you got to go. You don’t have to go into reality anymore. You have to go into the relative. And if you’ve not, if you’ve not been guided into it, you weren’t you weren’t, you won’t wait through on your own, however smart and clever you are because of the subtle nature of the whole thing and the sheer difficulty of it. You need the right emotional support. This is an emotional journey. This is not an intellectual one. This isn’t cerebral. This whole this whole path is emotional.
Rick Archer: Isn’t there? Both components?
Āloka David Smith: Yes. Yes. That yes, of course there is. There is there is there is a place for that. But it’s only a part because helps to guide you and orientate. And you can say yeah, I understand. Sure you need that. But when you come to actually put it into practice, you will find that it’s in the body, it’s not in the head, it’s in the body, you’ve got to learn to come into the body turn away from a lifetime of habits of doing everything in your head, learn to come into your body to be still to be open, and learn to trust that you find them to have no, no logic, it doesn’t fit your conditioning, it doesn’t fit common sense half the time, you have to learn to trust that and go with and you’re not going to do that on your own. Somebody, somebody who you trust, you can open, you can put their arm on your shoulder and say, just keep going, just keep going. And then and then you get to know the relative, you know, and until you know that relative you’re not going to know you’re not going to the absolute because he absolutely is where you call it and Ivana and sang star if you like them up to could not do but but for so many people, you just get a taste of, of the Absolute, somehow it’s it’s something separate and waft. You know, this, this, this, you’re just scratching you just scratching around,
Rick Archer: I decided to give some nice talks about that too. If you know who he is, you know how a taste of realization can seem like the whole thing. And one can be tempted to go out and teach and consider oneself done and all that stuff. But it’s just the taste and there’s there’s much more. So maybe we’ve covered that topic. He also said Buddha nature, I’d like to take the opportunity, if possible to talk on how Buddhist practice is generally evolving now in the West, much tinkering is and has been put on the traditional ancient ways of practice to the extent that I think we’re running the serious risk of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, making authentic awakening increasingly difficult to achieve. And then you mentioned your group, which the Holy Western group yet has not added to Norwich subtracted from the essence of the traditional way of Dharma practice. Go ahead and talk about that a
Āloka David Smith: bit. Yeah, well, I’d like I like to, you know, I’d like to use that as a model my group, which again, is something that I have to say I’ve known. So you get the right, you get the right picture here. I’ve never set out to be a teacher I’ve never set out to be to run a group. It’s only when my book came out. People wanted to come and sit with me And I couldn’t chase them away, they just kept coming back and coming back. And so that you sit, and then hello, let’s have a day retreat. And on it goes and then and then and then you have a group and I can hang on why didn’t start out to do this, it takes care of itself. And that’s part of the mystery of all of this and a part of that of that connection with, with a mysterious part of yourself, if you open will take you will take you out the plant will open next. Absolutely. And you don’t have to do anything about it. And, you know, I found myself teaching which I’ve never had that ambition in my life and absolutely terrified me the fact of getting up until when my book came out. When my book came out, I had to do I had to do book launches, I’ve never I’ve I’ve shied away from any anything public getting up in front of people since I was a young teenager, when I didn’t mind suddenly, suddenly, the curtains through an oath is terrified me all my life. But when this book came out, I thought, oh my god, I’m gonna have to get up and talk about this. And that, you know, it took a lot of so much fear I had to go through there. But slowly, you know, fears about familiarity, you stay with it, and eventually it fades away, don’t feed it, you know, with all of those things in the Fade.
Rick Archer: It used to be a rock drummer.
Āloka David Smith: Oh, that was back before I came to the practice.
Rick Archer: I used to also so you had some experiences with audiences anyway. And
Āloka David Smith: the great thing about the great thing about a drum kit is you can hide behind there
Rick Archer: in the background. Nobody can see you not the lead singer. If your
Āloka David Smith: seat if your seats low enough, and the symbols are high enough. You can hide the noise in the background so that that never counted. Anyway, you didn’t do solos. Hopefully no, no, it didn’t work. It wasn’t that good. I didn’t, I didn’t stick at it long enough to get get to that place. It was great. And God was fantastic. I loved it. But you know, that was something just passing through. And so I’ll just I just want to, you know, to tell you where I am today is that, you know, I’ve ended up I found myself teaching. But you’ve heard some of my talks. You know, we’ve got over 50 on the Dama wide website at this moment. And I, the way I’ve been talking today about me personally, you will hardly ever find anything on there. Where I talk about myself, is that what you do here exclusively is what’s come out of that have come out of that awakening process. I mean, this is this is not me that speaks when I sit down in front of front of the group I don’t, it just comes as it does for a lot of people. And that’s just an expression of that, of that, of the opening of that of that awakening. And that’s been a natural. That’s been a natural thing for me that the group that the group is the group is formed, I found myself as a teacher, I didn’t even want to call myself a teacher until about three or four years ago, I even recall and never used to ever call myself a teacher. I just found it so pretentious, because I’ve got so much to learn so much to learn, how can you get up there and sound the teacher when you know, you’re floundering? Well, you’ve got issues just like everybody else. So I’ve always I’ve always had difficulty with it. But now I’m comfortable with it. And I’m a teacher, because everyone tells me I’m a teacher. So I have to, I have to, I have to get on with it. But what they get from me is what’s come out of it’s what you know, it’s my own is my own expression of my own awakening. But everything since I’ve, since I’ve come to the Dharma has been within the traditional form. And so I proved to myself that it works, that there’s nothing wrong with it. If it works, don’t fix it. Why would I want to go tinkering with something? If I find it, I find myself with my own group and my own disciples. It seems like people want to do things to put their own identity on their group. Because Westerners suddenly start tweaking things and they and they drop things. And they begin to take away things that they don’t consider to be important. Like the whole devotional side, the whole like bowing for example, any any sense, the way I talk about opening up to your to, you know what is more than what we call Buddha nature, your own your own true nature that because you can’t prove these things and this is how the Western mind works. That in time they begin to show off everything that can’t be written down in a textbook that you can’t think through that’s not logical that doesn’t that doesn’t that just straight lines to it. I think they’ve done it with Indian with Indian Indian traditions. I think, you know, the the non dual comes from Advaitic to I mean, I don’t know that the bit that I’ve touched on advice is so much richer and so much. We don’t need all that Eastern mumbo jumbo. We just chop it off, we get down to the bare bones. And they’ve done it in Buddhism with with Vipassana, which is an ancient form of practice. But it’s, it’s it died really 100 years 150 word we all know 100 years ago, beginning of last century, and he got revived. And when he got it came into into the western perspective, just chopping all this all this traditional Sangha stuff Theravada stuff away, let’s just get down to the nitty gritty, just just that unconsidered all this stuff to be not, not necessarily that it’s all just flowery stuff. Because it’s irrational. You can’t say, well, we bow our heads, because it’s, you can say why, but you can’t give a rational reason for doing that as some sort of tangible product to it. So I’ll be won’t do that. And now Now you get and I discovered some years ago, that they even throw Buddha Reapers out. There’s no need don’t even bother with good roofers. I mean, I came across that word, but it means
Rick Archer: the statue of the Buddha statue. Yeah, yeah. Like you have,
Āloka David Smith: they’re not my friend here. And over my shoulder keeping, keeping the gang is very close. That people don’t know why they’re there. They think it’s just the mind or the just just a statue, and you don’t need it. But in fact, it can be one of the most supportive and the most, one of the most insightful things that you can have in your practice. But because it’s there’s no rationale around it. We’ll check it out and injury passionate, that’s got so sanitized, that they thrown away, thrown out so much as an example. And I think as I say, with that writers, the same thing, I think it’s I think the direct parallel actually, is what Westerners do you get this in nice is how am I, we’re rational, we’re intelligent. I understand everything. If it doesn’t fit my intelligence, then I don’t want to. So I can I can I can, I can hone it all down and get rid of it.
Rick Archer: So two part question about that one night yet? Oh, we’re gonna get to a two part question about this. One is, Are you pretty confident that what has traditionally come down over the last couple 1000 years, is what the Buddha would have intended? Or did some of the early practice or practitioners add on a lot of frills? Well, so that’s the first part of the question. Second part is, when you I’m not really familiar with Buddhist tradition too much. But I, from what I understand, there’s a lot of a lot of details, I mean, a lot of stuff about subtle beings and Bardot’s and all kinds of stuff. And so, you know, do we do we really want all that?
Āloka David Smith: No, we don’t need to be done unless you have a particular practice in that way. No, that’s true. We don’t need that. But I’m actually talking about specific practices, that the techniques,
Rick Archer: so you’re not guilty of throwing out a lot of stuff yourself by ignoring some of that stuff I just referred to,
Āloka David Smith: no, it doesn’t just apply to our particular training app, the one our training as a parallel in Chang in Zen. So it’s more absolutely it. It doesn’t mean it’s very, it’s very simple and very direct, straight, little, you know, stuff around it. So that’s very easy for us in the West, because we don’t, there’s not a lot of stuff, not a lot of clutter. Not a lot of clutter around it. But that but that’s that’s one been around Theravada, knowing the value of that type of Vipassana practice and knowing the difference between how tradition is done and how you get monks and nuns now, Westerners who were part of the tradition, how they practice it compared to it is just like a conveyor belt. If something is sanitized is sanitized. And what’s there is that the bit that’s closer to my heart, I have to say, is that again, because it’s irrational, because you can’t put your finger on it, because you can’t give a logic to look I’m trying to tell you this. Well, what I what I what I now know is my my true nature, I thought was out there is actually my true nature that’s that’s willing to an end it’s, I wrote my first book, how it helped me when I was on the point of insanity. I mean, that’s how big it is. It’s not some superficial side issue that some like a pet or something. It can be it can be a massive, massive part to the unfolding of your understanding because ultimately, that’s where you’re going. It’s not an alien that ultimately you’re waking to to that through nature, so, so to to, to embrace it and to acknowledge it, even though you can’t prove it and it is not to face or not to trust, trust, trust all the Masters, through the centuries have told you about Buddha Nature going right the way back, trust that actually hang on? Did they get it wrong? If they all got it wrong? Are they seriously all got it wrong? Or, you know, are they just trying to wind me up? Are they lying to me? Or actually, can I give him the benefit of the doubt, until I can prove it to myself, you’ve got to have that mind, give them the benefit of the doubt. Because if you don’t, you will never see it. And what’s happening now, because because it’s not something rational, it’s not something that you can, that you can put put into the, into the, into the condition world. To me, this is the spiritual path, I don’t know how you how you define the spiritual path, if you’re gonna stay in the logical mind, from the beginning to the end, you’re never going to leave. That’s not a spiritual path. Spiritual Path is to open up to something that’s an unconditioned, something that, that that you aspire to, that you don’t understand, that you will never grasp. But you trust and you know, very often just your own intuition, nevermind your own direct experience with that. But the important thing is to open to and say yes, and embrace it. And you can you can, you can begin to recognize in your life, it is not, it is not such a great mystery as we like to think that it is. But because that because it doesn’t fit the formulas, and all that and all the razzmatazz with all of those things, there appears to have just nonsense, we don’t need to denature or you either reject it for that reason, because it doesn’t is irrational, or hang on put in he says that you’re already enlightened. Therefore, therefore, you’re going to get people to think, Well, I’m already enlightened, I haven’t got the practice. You know, which, personally in 40 years, I’ve never come across anybody who said that, if anybody did misunderstand that, that you’re enlightened nature is permanent, and it’s with units who you really are, then you educate them. You don’t react and block it all off someone Oh, we can’t go those too dangerous. You have to educate people into into into into that that is that is the cornerstone cornerstone of this type of practice. This This so called imminent moment that you get in in Tibetan Buddhism in Dzogchen. And Zen Chan is the cornerstone of your, your true nature. And people are dumping it.
Rick Archer: They got left if they don’t that,
Āloka David Smith: what they got their own head and their own ideas, which they’re happy with. But I’ll tell you what, they will find their true nature.
Rick Archer: I mean, why do they even bother paying any attention to Buddhism or Buddhist practice? Well, well maybe check true nature of direct reject well, but what else is there to?
Āloka David Smith: Well, turns up with? Yeah, well, maybe because there is a lot of there is a lot of stuff around these days with meditation isn’t it’s very, very popular, very common. Most of it is derived from Buddhism, or a lot of it’s derived from Buddhism. But it’s that whole religion slide my god religion, we mustn’t use that word, that whole spiritual side has been rejected, and you do end up with something that works. I’m not saying it doesn’t work. I’m not saying that you won’t get anything out of practices like that. I’m not saying that, of course, the work can people get an awful lot. It can change their lives. But it’s only it’s only scratching the surface. It won’t go deep. It won’t fulfill the promise that you will get if you if you if you learn if you if you take it on without throwing the baby out. And I know with a say with micro How could I possibly throw the baby out? When I know that it works? I proved it to myself.
Rick Archer: So are these people who are throwing out Buddha nature? Are they people who might be just doing meditation practice for stress release or something? Is that what you’re saying? They’re kind
Āloka David Smith: of fine, that’s dumbing it down. But don’t Yeah, sure people and that’s fine, but don’t call it Buddhism. Right? You know, don’t hide, don’t hide behind Buddhists. And I’ve got a Buddhist practice, but I’m doing it on my terms. Of course,
Rick Archer: one thing may lead to the next they might be doing it for stress release for a couple of years and then begin to realize, Oh, there’s more to this. It’s beginning to unfold here.
Āloka David Smith: Fantastic. Well, then they must go and seek a teacher. A traditional teacher where things have improved but they haven’t thrown the baby out. And you you will go and you will go to while you’re going to tell value go design you go to Tibetan Buddhism, because although Tera Vaada doesn’t acknowledge but The nature of the Zen and Zen and Tibetan do so if that’s something, then you go then then you’ll if you’ve got a traditional form given to you by the teacher, and then, you know, that will then be a part of your training.
Rick Archer: And you know, we’ve been throwing around the term Buddha nature, but I don’t know if you quite define it. What is Buddha nature? Well, well, true nature, your true nature, your your essence, your innermost.
Āloka David Smith: Yeah, sorry. I mean, it’s just, it’s just the original nature of your members. Yeah, no, no, no. I’m too conditioned into Buddhism. It’s, that that’s, that’s, uh, my, my fear, my fear is that this sanitizing, which has happened in the past, is happening now in to me is is. You know, it’s a training that that I partake of, and abused, and it’s what I give to my disciples, my students, I fear, well, I know, it’s something I know it’s happening. This is not just a theory, I know, people are rejecting that. And if they think that somehow they’re going to awaken to the, to the true nature, by turning their back on it, it can’t happen, shut the door, this is subtle, this is subtle, it’s not going to come crashing through the door anymore, that you’re going to come crashing through the door, you have to turn to open to it, and find what you need to put in place the door open so that you begin to touch and begin to, to awaken to who you really are, requires requires that trust to do that. And if you don’t have that one, it cannot it cannot be it cannot happen.
Rick Archer: So this stuff must be fairly widespread for you to be so concerned about it.
Āloka David Smith: Well,
Rick Archer: people who are
Āloka David Smith: like, well, well, I know it I know it
Rick Archer: encountered a lot.
Āloka David Smith: I Well, I’m actually I don’t I don’t get around a lot at all. But I do know that I do you can read about sounds. It’s definitely out there to say it’s the you need, you know, you know, you need authentic teachers, who are who are not going to compromise? What are the essential principles of the path that will that will take you to that to that realization?
Rick Archer: And are there a fair number of authentic teachers around aside from yourself? I mean,
Āloka David Smith: I I don’t get that they’re round. They’re round, but there’s a lot, you know, I’d rather not go there because then it becomes making judgments anyway.
Rick Archer: But you’re reasonably confident that either in the US or the UK, if there’s somebody who’s interested in all this stuff, they if if they use a little Scruton tea and care and checking out teachers, they’re going to be able to find somebody,
Āloka David Smith: well, they shouldn’t know where you start and where you go, see, go and find traditional Buddhism, not some Western person who’s got up and, and devise their own, their own practice their own path, check this out, put something else put something new in,
Rick Archer: or they find a Western person such as yourself, who is adhering to traditional Buddhism, right? It doesn’t have
Āloka David Smith: no, no, exactly. But I don’t know how many people who are like me around because you see this what what sets my group apart is that we’re not actually like, really tradition, even I’m telling people to go to tradition, because what they’re getting for me, has come from tradition, and I haven’t fired or compromised in any way. Other than other than other than the sort of bells and whistles that the cultural stuff. You know, we don’t pretend to be don’t pretend to be Japanese or nits. We are Westerners, but the form and the practice that we have I’m I’m very confident so it is totally authentic is untouched, is I’ve not, I’ve not fiddled with it in any way. In the name of West us Westerners are different. Therefore, we got to practice different. I don’t I don’t buy that. I don’t, I don’t the only the only thing I would say the only the only aspect I would say, you know, looking at it from that perspective is the difference between Westerners and easterners. We all hope you’ve all got the same stuff. The only the only thing is, is to give more emphasis for West Western need to give more emphasis on the relationship with themselves. Because most of us Westerners don’t like ourselves. And that that historically, I don’t believe is the case. In my case, it was never a subject about people not liking themselves. It’s just what but we are so heavily we are so heavily you know created into this individual to get out there and be successful in the world. me against the world for individual very, very intelligent. You Got so much. But what that does is it feeds it makes the self very heavy. Because it’s all self, it’s all self, and we end up and we end up, we end up not liking ourselves. And I think if there is an emphasis, we should still still within the traditions is still this is not outside of it. But maybe we need to give a little bit more attention to, to be aware of our relationship with ourselves and to see that this is this is nothing more than a than a path of learning to like yourself, this is always there’s nothing mystical about this. This is nothing more than healing, you know, the fractured pneus of that we’ve turned ourselves into the conflict that we have with ourselves that bit that bit. You couldn’t you couldn’t incorporate that in in a traditional form without because it is a part of the tree. But I think more emphasis is justified because to me, that’s the one thing that makes us different to Eastern people, the rest of it, we’re often imbued with greed, hatred, and delusion all as daft as each other. And we’ve all got the same desires in which I mean, this is this is the species is the species
Rick Archer: in the Buddhist circles, that would be, you know, comparable to the governing bodies that approved physicians to you know, wants to ensure that they have the right training and certification. Is there anything like that, that sort of puts its approval on Buddhist teachers?
Āloka David Smith: This this is this is to me is is, you know, can be the the the nub of the issue. It’s so difficult and I don’t expect anything is new about this is so nebulous, this whole thing, when you talk about awakening, of getting, you’re getting your awakening authenticated, or traditionally you’d go to your teacher. And they would say yes or no. And they may give you permission to teach, you may get a title and stuff. But it is it is stamp of approval, that this is genuine, and you’ve got it from somebody who is also qualified to give that approval. But you know, how many people are like that in the world? Where can you go, and it’s not an emotive, it’s all sorts of secrecy anyway, that it is very, very difficult. But I would say to somebody, if they have, if they are convinced that they broken through, and you know, they’ve, they’ve realized their true nature, go and seek somebody who is also awakened. Now, that may not be an easy thing to do, it doesn’t have to be of your tradition, get a second opinion, pick it pick because because because it takes one to recognize one, and you go because you’ve not had that tradition, you can go and you can talk about how things have opened up for you, they will know, you know, when you got to look at you, and they’ll know. And then they say yes, this is this is authenticated. If you don’t, then who’s to say that it’s real? Yeah. You know, for me, for me, you know, I was given that I was given that stamp actually goes give me by three, three people who I, as it so happened, who, who I would consider to be has the authority to do that. And and when you do that, then fair enough, then you’d go off and you can, you still may have a lot to do with your own practice. Like I was saying, you know, you’re only starting in some ways, and he’s got to be very, very careful because you can turn this into a head trip so easy. This can be this can be such an ego trip, the power that it can give you that we’ve seen so often is, is really rebounded on so many people. But it’s one of the dangers that you have to be awake to and be alive to and see that you don’t fall into that into that trap. But if benefit matures, then you can you can then go and do you know you can you can start an express express your awakening Not, not not express your, your awakening in directors. But but but the understanding the Dama that comes through, through through that when everything opens up. That becomes your teaching. And I think until until until you get that authentication, I think I think it’ll be done careful. But it’s it is unfortunately very, very rare.
Rick Archer: Maybe you know, at this point in the development of this whole thing in the West Zina still in a fairly fledgling stage and the kind of things we’re alluding to now will become more commonplace once it has gotten better established.
Āloka David Smith: We hope so. We hope so. And you know, a lot of mistakes are going to be made there their audience a lot of mistakes have been made and who knows they’re going to be more mistakes made in the future, but the more I think they know I am a traditionalist, I make no bones about that I’m a Westerner. Absolutely, I’ve got no affiliation or fixation on the eastern caught up and all of that sort of stuff. I am a Westerner, but but at the same time, I do know the wisdom of the East, I’m prepared to accept the wisdom of yeast. And that’s good enough for me. If it works, don’t fix it. Why do you want to tinker with it? Embrace it, get to know if you don’t understand it. Fair enough. Why should you stay with it, look into it, stay with it until you do understand it don’t often start fiddling with it, which is what we this is what this is a characteristic of, of Western people, we want to put our stamp on it. It’s like this. And that, to me is the great danger. And if we keep going down that road, you know, if this is just going to end up a whole load of nonsense. And there aren’t going to be the Buddhist, the Buddhist path is never going to be fulfilled. It is it is a very dodgy path. It’s not a simple path, and it can be got wrong. There’s nothing easy about this. But if you if you follow the guidelines that have been in place for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years, put in place by by by truly truly awakened beings who see everything color, isn’t that good enough for you have the humility is the thing that has nevermind Eastern where’s the thing we may not like ourselves, as I say is a Western characteristic. The other Western the other West characteristic is we don’t do humility. Eastern people do humility. We don’t do humility. Oh, I want it my way. The willingness to say, look, I don’t understand. It’s a bit too much blow by my head to it. And I’ll state stay with it. And hopefully it will clarify. And then and then I will say that is a massive challenge to us Western people. Yeah, we don’t do him. And humility. Humility is a part of that part of the spiritual path. This is not this is not a an option. Humility has to you have to have a willingness to, to put your head on the ground and give yourself and if you think that’s a lot of nonsense, and you can do it without doing that. I don’t think you’re gonna pull it off. And I’ve never come across anybody that has. I’ve never heard of anybody that’s done it, but do the shortcuts by westernizing it I don’t know they might be there because I’m not really plugged in. Certainly not in America. They might be there. But I’ve never I’ve never heard of it. So why change something that works? Other Other Other than your own conceit, that’s where you want to change you.
Rick Archer: Pride goeth before a fall they say.
Āloka David Smith: Yep, absolutely. And that’s, that’s my you know, that’s that that’s what I that’s what we bothers me. It bothers me a lot, actually. Because I love I love. I love this path. I think it’s I think it’s the greatest thing that any human can I would say that wouldn’t die. But it’s the greatest thing that anybody can do. I think it’s the combination of a human of human development on the on the scale of evolution. Yeah. And I would just hate to see it, you know, end up in the dust because of our because of our conceit. And because we’re not prepared to bow our heads.
Rick Archer: Ultimately, I think as you were saying, there’s some kind of mysterious guidance, you know, that is guiding many, many of us not only individually, but perhaps masses of us. And hopefully that will prevail. And we’ll steer clear of the rocks that civilization seems to be heading toward.
Āloka David Smith: Well, we can hope this is it’s always been a dodgy, it’s always been a dodgy things beginning. It always will be. Because Because what we’re doing is, it’s the ultimate thing that humans can do. And it’s never, for that reason is never going to be easy. And it’s never going to be for the masses. Yeah. Just for those that have reached that point of evolution.
Rick Archer: I would say that hopefully, the percentage of people in society who have reached that point in evolution will will be getting a lot larger, and seems to be getting a lot larger. And that perhaps, is even if it’s no kind of majority or anything, a more significant percentage will begin to have a societal impact that we so much need and haven’t much seen yet.
Āloka David Smith: Well, we can you know, we can we can get it wrong. We can get it wrong in the sense of getting the path wrong, but that doesn’t stop us becoming a better human being. It doesn’t stop us bringing good qualities to society and changing The values, even though we may not be strictly on the path, you know, it isn’t about becoming a bad person, you can still become a wonderful person that can bring great benefit to people in the world. But it would be just so much better if they were, you know, truly on the path that they can then give others as well. So it’s not, you know, this isn’t black, this isn’t black and white. But but but it would be, you know, it’d be good. So the thing keeps going, there’s a lineage that goes into the future for people. And if we lose that, then it will go downhill. Got to go downhill.
Rick Archer: Okay, well, I am afraid I better wrap it up. Going I’ve had a pretty good, pretty good talk here, I think. Any any final concluding remark you’d like to make? Or have we pretty much covered it?
Āloka David Smith: I think I think I said what a couple of things I wanted to say. I mean, which is a lot of people would agree with, and would be very challenging. definitely challenging was great. You got to be challenged when you do and if you can’t, this isn’t about the comfort zone. This is about being challenged. And I think I like to think, well, this is how I see things. And, and I am a challenging person. And I think what I what I’ve thrown out there, as you asked the students in my group, I think they’d probably agree with that, that, you know, we need to be we need to, we need to watch it, and we need to watch ourselves, and we need to be challenged, and never get into that complacency and think that you’ve cracked it, because that’s a very, very dangerous road to go down. And, and I hope, you know, what I said, is challenging, whether people agree with it or not, I don’t know. But there you go. Not have to, I’m not out to save the world. I gave that one out when I was 10 years old or something, just, you know, do my best and to offer off of the worst the things that’s all
Rick Archer: good. Well, you’re one of these people that I would say is living a life well lived. So congratulation. Congratulations on everything you’ve done and are doing. I’m sure you don’t want to let that go to your head, because you’ve really been doing it, which breeds humility. So let me just make a couple of concluding remarks. I’ve been talking with all local David Smith, who lives in the UK teachers in the UK. You still an Oxford? You’re just born there were
Āloka David Smith: no US born. I’m actually I’m actually based in Birmingham, it’s middle of the country. It’s very, very convenient place for our group.
Rick Archer: Yeah. And obviously have weekly meetings there and so on. And then you give retreats around the country and even Ireland. I think I heard you say yeah, so people if they live over there on the continent might want to get in touch or come to those.
Āloka David Smith: Sure they come to the Dama. My website is very quiet. It’s very comprehensive. Yes, we’re totally open. And everybody’s welcome. Yep. As long as they follow the form.
Rick Archer: And I’ll be linking to that. So there’ll be a page. Yeah, sure. There’ll be a page on Buddha at the Gas Pump on that. gap.com about this interview, and it’ll have a link to Dave Olga’s books and to his website where you can find out more. In a general sense, if you more, some general concluding remarks on batgap.com, you’ll find a number of ways of finding the past interviews, different indexes alphabetical chronological topical, there’s a future interview section where you can see who’s who the upcoming guests are. And some other stuff, just pull down the menus and explore. There’s also a discussion group that crops up around each interview. So there’ll be one for this interview. And there is a link to an audio podcast. If you prefer to listen to these in audio, rather than sitting on your computer, there’s a Donate button which I appreciate people clicking. There’s a link to be notified a future of each new interview as it’s released by email, he just says subscribe to the email notification get one about one a week. So that’s about it. Next week is another Buddhist teacher shouldn’t Shinzen Young and we’ll talk about him when we get to him. But thank you very much, David. Appreciate you taking the time. David,
Āloka David Smith: that’s right. Is my preferred name, but I’ve got no great hang up on it. But yeah, and I’ve enjoyed it very much. And I’ve enjoyed being given the freedom to express myself. I mean, I am a talker and I could go on forever. But you give me space to say what I consider to be important, good things.
Rick Archer: And if people want to hear you say even more of the effort, you’ve written four books and there’s like your five bucks and I’ve been listening to some of your podcasts. There are great many of those. So there’s there’s plenty to plenty to dip into if one wants to. Yeah. Okay. Well, thank you very much. Thanks very much. Thank you