607. Stephan Bodian, 2nd Interview

Stephan BodianStephan Bodian is a teacher in the nondual wisdom tradition of Zen, Dzogchen, and Advaita Vedanta and the founder and director of the annual School for Awakening, an intensive six-month program of exploration and study. His offerings are noted for their humor, warmth, spontaneity, and intimacy and combine direct pointers, lively dialogues, silent sitting, and guided self-inquiry. He’s the author of several books, including Wake Up Now: A Guide to the Journey of Spiritual Awakening and Beyond Mindfulness: The Direct Approach to Lasting Peace, Happiness, and Love.

Stephan spent a decade practicing Zen intensively as a monk but left the monastery because he sensed that the rigorous practice of meditation was obscuring the truth he was seeking. After studying Dzogchen for several years, he met his guru, Jean Klein, a European teacher of Advaita Vedanta, who told him to stop meditating and instead discover the meditator. Shortly after meeting Jean, he had a profound awakening to his true identity as timeless presence. After Jean’s death, Stephan met Adyashanti, and in 2001 Adya gave him Dharma transmission and invited him to teach.

Trained as a psychotherapist, Stephan also offers individual spiritual counseling and mentoring sessions to people throughout the world. His approach blends direct, experiential, nondual wisdom with the insights of Western psychology to support students in realizing who they really are while inquiring into the stories and patterns of thinking and behaving that continue to cause suffering.

Some of the main points discussed in this interview:

  • What does spiritual integrity really mean?
  • Absolute and relative levels of truth
  • “There is no right or wrong, but right is right, and wrong is wrong.”
  • The role and deeper meaning of ethical precepts.
  • Understanding the power dynamics of the teacher-student relationship.
  • How teachers abuse their sacred responsibility and act out of integrity.
  • “The teacher represents a whole world of meaning to the student.”
  • Teachers who claim to be enlightened may relegate their students to endless endarkenment.
  • Why narcissists are drawn to becoming spiritual teachers.
  • How students are taken in by misguided teachers.
  • The crucial role of discernment on the path: “The true guru is inside you”.
  • The importance of peer feedback and personal counseling as teachers mature in their role.
  • Sex in the forbidden zone: Wanderers, predators, and boundary confusion.
  • Acknowledging and integrating the shadow.
  • How to know when it’s time to leave a teacher.
  • The future of the spiritual teacher-student relationship in the West.
  • The endless nature of the awakening journey.

Website: stephanbodian.org

Other books:

Discussion of this interview in the BatGap Community Facebook Group.

First BatGap interview with Stephan.

Interview recorded July 11, 2021

Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast.

579. Conspirituality, with Derek Beres, Matthew Remski, and Julian Walker

ConspiritualityA conversation with the hosts of the Conspirituality Podcast website. As they describe it, their podcast is…

A weekly study of converging right-wing conspiracy theories and faux-progressive wellness utopianism.

At best, the conspirituality movement attacks public health efforts in times of crisis. At worst, it fronts and recruits for the fever-dream of QAnon.

As the alt-right and New Age horseshoe toward each other in a blur of disinformation, clear discourse and good intentions get smothered. Charismatic influencers exploit their followers by co-opting conspiracy theories on a spectrum of intensity ranging from vaccines to child trafficking. In the process, spiritual beliefs that have nurtured creativity and meaning are transforming into memes of a quickly-globalizing paranoia.

Conspirituality Podcast attempts to bring understanding to this landscape. A journalist, a cult researcher, and a philosophical skeptic discuss the stories, cognitive dissonances, and cultic dynamics tearing through the yoga, wellness, and new spirituality worlds. Mainstream outlets have noticed the problem. We crowd-source, research, analyze, and dream answers to it.

The term “conspirituality” first appeared in 2009 as the name of a Vancouver rap group that unironically dropped conspiracy keywords into beats calling for political awakening. In 2011, Charlotte Ward and David Voas used the term academically to analyze the growing overlap between the paranoid conspiracism of right-wingers and the New Age’s yearning for spiritual transformation.

Derek BeresDerek Beres is a multi-faceted author, media expert, and movement instructor based in Los Angeles.

He is the Head of Content Marketing and Community at Centered, as well as a columnist for Big Think and Psychedelic Spotlight.

One-half of EarthRise SoundSystem, he also served as music supervisor for the breakthrough documentary, DMT: The Spirit Molecule.

He is a co-host of the Conspirituality podcast. His new book, Hero’s Dose: The Case for Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy, is out now.

Matthew RemskiMatthew Remski is a cult survivor and researcher. His 2019 book, Practice And All Is Coming: Abuse, Cult Dynamics, And Healing In Yoga And Beyond, is the first systematic analysis of pervasive cultism in the modern yoga world.

He researches and writes on abuse in spiritual movements here, as well as for publications like GEN by Medium and The Walrus. His current research is pivoting to look at cultic dynamics in conspirituality and eco-justice movements.

He lives in Toronto with his partner and their two sons.

Julian WalkerJulian Walker grew up in Zimbabwe and South Africa and has lived in LA since 1990. He is fascinated with the intersections of yoga/meditation, psychology, science, and culture. He has written extensively on cults and gurus, spiritual bypass and quantum woo in New Age circles, trauma and the body, and neuroscience and somatic psychology informing the practice and teaching of yoga. His writing can be found on Elephant Journal, MediumFreedom Becomes You, and in the 2011 book, 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics, and Practice. He teaches yoga and runs teacher-training programs in and around LA. Julian is also a bodyworker and the ecstatic dance DJ/facilitator for his Dance Tribe events.

Discussion of this interview in the BatGap Community Facebook Group.

Interview recorded December 5, 2020.

Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast.

575. Swami Sarvapriyananda – Ethical Foundations of Nondual Spirituality

Swami SarvapriyanandaSwami Sarvapriyananda has been Minister and Spiritual Leader of the Vedanta Society of New York since January 2017. He was a Nagral Fellow at Harvard Divinity School during the 2019-20 academic year. Prior to this, he served as assistant minister of the Vedanta Society of Southern California for 13 months. Swami joined the Ramakrishna Math and Mission in 1994 and received Sannyas in 2004. Before coming to serve in the US, he served as an acharya (teacher) of the monastic probationers’ training center at Belur Math in West Bengal, India (the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission founded by Swami Vivekananda, the chief disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa). He has served the Ramakrishna Math and Mission in various capacities including being the Vice Principal of the Deoghar Vidyapith Higher Secondary School, Principal of the Shikshana Mandira Teacher Education College at Belur Math, and the first Registrar of the Vivekananda University at Belur Math.

ASI LogoThis conversation hosted by the Association for Spiritual Integrity explores the profound interconnections between ethics and Advaita Vedanta. An ethical life is foundational to the spiritual quest, a non-negotiable sine qua non to any real spiritual development. One can be good without being particularly “spiritual”, but there is no spirituality without goodness. But it is also true that ethics are a consequence of nonduality. For as long as thinkers have pondered ethics, they have searched for a foundation, a grounding, for ethics. Why should one be good and do good? The various answers thinkers have come up with through the ages – utilitarianism, deontology, and so forth – have all been found seriously wanting. Nonduality claims to provide a deep foundation for ethics. In this talk and Q&A, Swami Sarvapriyananda explores the philosophical and practical, as well as the individual and social dimensions of ethics in nondual spirituality.

Discussion of this interview in the BatGap Community Facebook Group.

Recorded September 28, 2020

First BatGap interview with Swami Sarvapriyananda

Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast.