Choboji Transcript

Choboji Interview

Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer and my guest today is Chobo, or if we want to add the honorific suffix, Chobo-ji. Welcome.

Choboji: Hi.

Rick: You live in Scotland, is it?

Choboji: Yeah.

Rick: In Glasgow or?

Choboji: Just outside Edinburgh.

Rick: Edinburgh, okay, great. And I really enjoyed preparing for this interview. I enjoyed listening to your recordings and reading your little book, Melody in Silence, The Selfish Bodhisattva. We’ll talk about what that means. But one thing I was curious about, well, first of all, what does Chobo mean?

Choboji: That’s a good question.

Rick: How did you come up with that?

Choboji: Well, I generally don’t like to get, you know, esoteric or anything like that. I really don’t reflect that. But I was sitting watching Scrubs with my girlfriend.

Rick: Scrubs is a TV show about doctors, right?

Choboji: TV show, yeah.

Rick: Yeah, okay.

Choboji: Before that I was thinking I need a name. I’d like a name. One that either means pointing, finger pointing to the moon, or a beginner. It’s like Zen mind, beginner’s mind. It felt really, felt appropriate. So I was sitting watching TV and my girlfriend just went, “Chobo!” And I thought that was quite odd. And then she just went, “Chobo!” She went, “You’re Chobo!” And my girlfriend’s not spiritual at all. She’s not interested in what I do in any way. But I thought it was so odd that I had to look it up. And sure enough it meant pointing in one language and beginner in the other language. And I thought, “Okay.”

Rick: Very good. So your girlfriend is more in tune than she realizes.

Choboji: Yeah, more in tune than me.

Rick: And in your book you mentioned your master several times. And I somehow got the impression that was Mooji. Is that correct or are you referring to somebody else?

Choboji: Mooji.

Rick: Oh, Mooji. Great. I love Mooji. No wonder you make so much sense if you’re a student of his. He’s great. You want to hear a cute little Mooji story? Just a couple of weeks ago, there’s a little group that is located about an hour and a half north of London. And they kind of became aware of Mooji through my interview with him. And they’ve kind of started a little satsang where every week or every month or something, he calls them on Skype and has a little gathering over Skype. They talk to him. And so they were gathered for that just a couple of weeks ago. And the doorbell rang. They figured it was somebody else coming to the satsang. They went to the door and it was Mooji. He happened to be in England and he drove an hour and a half up from London to come and surprise them at their little satsang. I thought that was sweet.

Choboji: I can imagine their heads fell off.

Rick: Yeah, so they had a good time. Good. So why is your book subtitled “The Selfish Bodhisattva”?

Choboji: I guess we’re jumping right into the end point with that.

Rick: Oh, well we could start at the beginning if you want to tell us what that is.

Choboji: Well, no, it’s good to start at the end as well, isn’t it?

Rick: And according to T.S. Eliot, they’re the same thing.

Choboji: The Alpha to the Omega. For me, the final obstacle was the wish to help others as a concept. And I realized the paradox that the only way to fulfill the bodhisattva wish is to let go of any thoughts of other, or any concept, or anything, basically. And the most selfish act that you can do is to realize who you are.

Rick: There’s something to that. In fact, there are actual scriptures which talk about, there’s that Upanishad which says, ”It’s not for the sake of the wife that the wife is dear, but for the sake of the self that the wife is dear.” And then it lists not only the wife, but the sons and the wealth, and a whole list of things that people are narrowly attracted to in life. And it says, “It’s not for the sake of those that they are dear, but for the sake of the self that those are dear.”

Choboji: Yeah, wow. Yeah, it’s the … if you’re holding on to … it’s almost that positive projection. If you’re positively projecting onto someone, there’s still like a hidden ego behind it that is seeking some gain for yourself out of it. And it’s like there’s an element of distrust in wanting to help others. Because it’s only when you fully trust, basically, God takes over and you disappear. And if you’re trying to do it, it means that your intellect thinks it can do better than existence itself. And when you fall into that, then you fall into bliss and complete fulfilment. And that’s … it’s like a play, the Selfish Bodhisattva play on the words, ”The ultimate fulfilment of yourself then becomes the blessings for others.” To use kind of religious language, but if you’re sorted within your own self, then when you’re in a relationship, then it flows because you’re not seeking those desires, even if they’re positive. But that takes trust to drop, because it’s very difficult to drop cultured goodness.

Rick: So in other words, you’re saying that if you’re fulfilled within yourself, then your motives, whether it’s in helping others or having a relationship or whatever, aren’t going to be selfishly based in any way or tainted by need or craving or something. They’ll just be 100% altruistic or guided by, could we say, a higher intelligence or guided by something bigger than individual motives. Is that what you’re saying?

Choboji: Yeah, we start moving into interesting language when we start … like the higher power.

Rick: Yeah, you have to define your terms as you go along.

Choboji: It’s like … yeah, there’s no getting around the fact that you have to use the word “divine.” Life itself is divine. So the Zen master, “I eat when I’m hungry, I sleep when I’m tired,” because life itself is perfection. And in the ordinary objects, the ordinary life that we call ordinary, when it’s free from the concept or the concepts that go with it, it’s so beautiful, it’s inconceivable. If you’re not in that space, then generally people try to find it through drugs, don’t they?

Rick: Or something.

Choboji: Or something. But Aldous Huxley does have perception to great think when he sees the magnificence of the ordinary. But our experience doesn’t seem to suggest that our ordinary life is perfection. It seems to suggest misery and suffering. But that’s all caught up in the concepts, ironically caught up in the concepts, generally from religions trying to chase that happiness. And that’s filtered through into the culture, where that chasing is the very block to the magnificence of life.

Rick: So are you saying that religions are to blame for all the suffering and misery of life?

Choboji: No, that would be more helpful than to talk about emptiness. There’s no such thing as religion or these things. It’s just life. And so as we move through life, those expressions, we have to use the mind, don’t we? And it’s like that sense that it’s our growth and it’s suffering. So that suffering is divine. It’s the fruit on the tree of knowledge. You have to eat it. You have to go through it. And look what, because the magnificence of the mind gives us this, we can talk across the other side of the planet, inconceivable, inconceivable. That’s the mind. We don’t need to get rid of that.

Rick: No.

Choboji: So we’re going on this journey, aren’t we? If I say to you, “You’re going on this journey,” and the things you thought maybe you didn’t like at the time, you realize, “Wow, what a journey my life’s been.” It’s given me the fruit and the depth that I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t explored.

Rick: It’s true. What I find helpful is to look at the past as having been perfect. Everything happened just as it was supposed to, and all the things that happened had a value in bringing me to where I am now. In fact, I once said to my mother, “Mom,” I had a pretty rough upbringing, alcoholic father and all that. I said, “Mom, you did just perfectly as a mother, because I’m really happy with the way I am, and so you must have just done a perfect job.” She would like to hear that. Some people rag on their parents for not having done a good job or something. But in the big picture of things, getting back to this concept of the divine, if the universe really has an evolutionary momentum to it, and it’s all this giant cosmic evolution machine that’s developing higher and higher expressions, then all the stuff we go through must be fundamentally motivated by that tendency, that driving purpose, however horrific it may seem in the moment.

Choboji: Yeah, absolutely. But no matter how many concepts of cleverness you may have about, “There’s no world out there,” you have to go through it.

Rick: Yeah, I really like that theme that you come back to a number of times in your book. It’s something I’ve come back to a number of times in these interviews, about the need for genuine experience as opposed to just playing with intellectual notions of enlightenment or consciousness or whatever. Perhaps we can talk about that a bit. I don’t think I was too aware of it until I started doing these interviews, and then I kept running into people who I felt had just gotten some intellectual sense of enlightenment or higher consciousness or whatever, but weren’t actually living it, and yet they were speaking as though they were, this neo-Advaita kind of scene. So maybe you could give us your thoughts on that.

Choboji: Have you seen, there’s a wonderful animation, I think it’s on Jeff Buster’s YouTube.

Rick: Jeff created that actually, about his mother, the two little bears, and one is saying, “Look at the beautiful tree,” and then the other guy goes in this hole. That was actually based on a conversation he had with his mother when he was walking in some park.

Choboji: Wow, that’s one of the best things I’ve ever seen. There is no relationships, everything is just consciousness, there is no beauty. That’s what can happen. You essentially become a fundamentalist.

Rick: Why do you think people do that? Why do you think that’s kind of a syndrome these days?

Choboji: It’s because it’s quite easy, and then you feel like you know, and it’s part of the ego. You know, they say the path, the spirituality, but there’s certain points on the ego that are almost impossible not to go through. And one of them is thinking you’re right. It’s really difficult. You know people go, “My guru is better than your guru.” Isn’t it? It’s like, he’s the best, because if you check deep down, it’s because you think, because he’s yours.

Rick: Yeah.

Choboji: And that need to be right is quite fulfilling, and it gives you a sense in the universe. So before, maybe you have a concept of God as a father figure, who gives you the sense, who blocks out the terror of the unknown. And again, I’ve known people who’ve known the answers to the entire universe, and they’re miserable. I went through the Buddhist path, and they know everything. They know that’s karma, they know you’re going to be reincarnated there, but they’re really unhappy. But they know, so they must be part of our journey, to need to know.

Rick: I can remember when I was about 17 years old and taking drugs at the time, and I first started getting aware of spirituality and reading some Zen books and all, and I could pontificate for hours, and I could stand there and give my friends a whole rap about reality. I was a totally confused, messed up kid, but there was this sense of, it’s funny, maybe it’s true of all subjects, but with this particular subject, there’s a kind of, we are grounded in that reality ultimately, and when you begin to contemplate it, there is some kind of intuitive “aha” that takes place, because to some extent there’s some element in our experience that corroborates our understanding. But I think what a lot of people do is they jump to conclusions, and they think that, “Oh, this is it, this is the awakening that everybody’s talking about, I’ve got it, isn’t that wonderful, I think I’ll start teaching.” Whereas there could in fact be decades of unfoldment yet to go for that person, until they’re really grounded in the experience that their intellect has just begun to taste.

Choboji: And then there’s the flip side to that, Rick, isn’t there, that it’s impossible. No, I’m useless, there’s still so much to go with.

Rick: Yeah, lifetimes.

Choboji: Yeah, I can count how many atoms are in a chair, that kind of ridiculousness. So obviously that’s why a master is helpful, to give you the mirror of where you are. And people don’t like that either, because it requires… I mean, generally it’s a big attack to your ego, isn’t it? Somebody’s further along than me, and that concept alone, we don’t like that concept. Ultimately, obviously, everyone is born from the unborn, or however it is that we’re coming from. But as I say, there’s quite a big difference between Ramana Maharishi and a suicidal, depressed teenager, or a murderous rapist. And if you can’t tell the difference between them, it means you’re stuck up here.

Rick: Good point. And it’s not sufficient for the murderous such-and-such to just say, “Oh, I’m just like Ramana Maharishi, we’re all the same being, there isn’t an inch of daylight between me and him.” Because again, there could be, on some level that’s true, but there could be vast amounts of purification and development and so on that that person is going to have to undergo before he actually becomes a Ramana Maharishi.

Choboji: But it’s the essential point, is it your experience? Are you dwelling in bliss?

Rick: Yeah.

Choboji: And only you can answer. So it doesn’t matter what you say, what you come up with. If there’s still restlessness in your being, maybe you get bored, or you’re still seeking, it doesn’t matter if you say there’s no such thing as seeking, if you just can’t sit content in your being.

Rick: And then of course a number of people say, they dismiss the importance of bliss. They say, “Oh, you could be miserable, you could be angry, you could be depressed, an enlightened person can be all of those things.” In a way they dumb it down, they lower the bar, because they’re experiencing those things.

Choboji: I think if we’re going to produce terminology, or my understanding of it, is when you realize the “I am”, or you get that sense of “I’m just here”, that’s the start of the path. And the start of the path is in witnessing you’re depressed, witnessing you’re angry, and you start to … It’s like Mooji said, you start just resting your being, zip up your sleeping bag, your being, and just soak in that. Because you’ve found the path, that’s not awakening itself, in terms of Buddha, like you’d say. And then there’s the level of love, which is that intimate losing yourself in the other, the world around you, so they don’t become the other they are. It’s a tremendous experience, compared to just that “I am”, is when you recognize and feel “I am” in someone else, and know that they’re more important than you are. It’s like breaking down of the ego, and that requires tremendous trust and letting go. That’s the two paths, isn’t it? The two wings of the bird, the path of love and the path of meditation. And people on the path of meditation generally stand back, and they don’t get involved, and they remain detached and beautiful. Those like the Sufis, symbolized by the Sufi whirling, whoever you meet, manifests a different part of who you are, and you allow all these flowers of your being to come out, and all that does is point to the unchanging within. So you move within everything, and it manifests the unknowable within.

Rick: I think for some people both of those things can be part of their experience. One can be engaged in meditation and also very much engaged in the world and engaged with people, and the way you’ve described it, it’s not an either/or necessarily.

Choboji: Yeah, it’s like two aspects of one thing.

Rick: There’s another thing you said earlier about Masters that I just wanted to make a comment on, about the importance or value of having one. In the context we were talking, it’s interesting because on the one hand a Master can be instrumental in instilling humility, making you realize you’re not quite so great as you thought. On the other hand, a Master at the appropriate time can be instrumental in instilling confidence, the willingness to sort of own it. And both of those are a little bit different, but perhaps are needed at different stages of your development.

Choboji: Yeah, I guess I probably want to talk about my journey. That’s pretty much what Mooji did for me. I’ve never actually met Mooji to sit and chat with.

Rick: In person you’ve never met him yet?

Choboji: No, I’ve been to his satsangs, but I’ve never sat down and had a coffee and, ”What shoe size are you?” Because I just couldn’t quite believe what had happened to me in many ways. And with Mooji it was very much, “This is it, that’s it,” and that impact. And there was one thing he said which I found fantastic. He said, “If you’ve been studying for 20 years and you haven’t awakened, why not?” And it really blew me.

Rick: It could depend on the effectiveness of your study.

Choboji: It felt like a personal doubt. And that’s what a Master is. So my first Master was a Tibetan Master. And for me, when I met him, that explosion of love, I’d never experienced anything like it in my life. I’d walk into the room, I’d start shaking, and somebody else thought it was just a dodgy old man. So it’s that love affair, that you’re falling into love with someone’s being. So it’s not there, never telling you, “You should go shopping four times a day,” or, “You should go shopping twice a day.” Nothing like that. It’s recognizing the Divine in someone else first. And that gives you … Were you wanting to say something?

Rick: No, I just have this little Chinese frog on my desk, and I noticed it was crooked, so I was just straightening it up as you were talking.

Choboji: What’s he rambling on about it?

Rick: But I did have a thought. The dog needs to come in though. I did have a thought, and that was that … Now I’ve lost it. Go ahead, you continue.

Choboji: I don’t know what it was.

Rick: We’re both goners.

Choboji: I’ve got a poem that I’d like to give to your listeners. One plus one equals … That’s it.

Rick: That’s it. I won’t try to answer that.

Choboji: Yeah, if anyone wants to get back to me.

Rick: Do they get a prize?

Choboji: I think they will.

Rick: Now, one thing I noticed in your book that I found interesting, that not too many people talk about, is you discuss degrees of witnessing, and you say that there’s one sort of witnessing, I guess you could call it … I forget which terminology you apply, maybe it’s liberation, in which there is a sort of a detachment from ordinary waking state events, but then the real acid test would be maintaining pure awareness during sleep. You mention that in your book. I say not too many people talk about it. I’ve had long discussions with people about this very point, and I have one friend who says he hasn’t lost awareness for about 55 years. He’s been maintaining awareness during sleep since he was about 10 years old. Other people say, “Well, I had that for a while, but really I’d rather be out like a light when I sleep.” So it kind of went away after a while. But some teachers actually emphasize that that is a sort of a critical criterion for a significant degree of awakening. You can sort of fake it in the waking state, “Oh, I’m so detached,” but if you’re soundly asleep and pure awareness is lost, you can’t really fake that. It’s either maintained or it’s not. So what is your experience that caused you to put it in your book, and what would you say to that?

Choboji: I think using Mooji’s language, he talks about “before the I am.” And that’s the space that we were talking about before, about when you just realize the I am, that’s the path. But for Buddha, then when you realize emptiness in the waking state, that’s just liberation and not enlightenment, because when you go into sleep, that waking state disappears, so that space of awareness isn’t maintained. So you have to be able to have that sense. But it makes it really easy and clear. I’ve had the experience in my sleep of being awake.

Rick: Yeah, like your girlfriend will say, “Hey, you’re snoring,” and you think, ”I’m not snoring, I’m awake.”

Choboji: Yeah, I get that quite a lot. But in really deep sleep, you can’t really put it into words. And that’s clear that there’s no … yeah.

Rick: So in your own experience, is that a 24/7 phenomenon now?

Choboji: No.

Rick: You’ve had taste of it?

Choboji: Yeah. So my feeling is that when death comes, then it won’t be a problem.

Rick: What won’t be a problem?

Choboji: Maintaining awareness.

Rick: Ah, because it’s been established enough. But I would suggest that even in life, there may come a time when that pure awareness is just a continuum, regardless of whether you’re awake or asleep. And it can become more clear and more stable, and maybe we’ve had taste of it, but for some it is a perpetual condition.

Choboji: But a couple of important points. I think I may have put in my book, I can’t really remember what I wrote in my book, but the disclaimer is that essentially, life is a mystery. So these are … if somebody may be listening to that going, “No, no, no, this system, that system,” and the Divine manifests in as many different ways as there are people, and that’s why we’re drawn to different Masters, different teachings, the expression, what is being expressed through them is so different. You don’t just put the hammer down, that’s the point. You don’t go, “That’s that.” But it’s important to talk about these different depths.

Rick: So I totally buy that, different teachers and different flavors for different people, different strokes for different folks, as Sly and the Family Stone put it. So are you suggesting that probably there aren’t any universal criteria for awakening or enlightenment, and it really depends on your teacher or your tradition? Or could there be some universal criteria which cut across all traditions, and if we look deeply into each tradition, we’d find them there?

Choboji: Yeah. I think, you know, what it’s like, difficult to … from the outside, don’t pinpoint someone because somebody blinks more than someone else.

Rick: Oh yeah, from the outside, who knows?

Choboji: But within, yeah, the lack of the ego, that’s awakening. When you realize the “I” that you’ve always been relating to for your whole life, it’s not who you are. And who you are is fathomless, unknowable, inconceivable, and can never be covered by language.

Rick: Yeah. And even that … I’m sorry, go ahead.

Choboji: No, no, I think that’s within every path that’s ever been.

Rick: And still it’s rather rare. I mean, most people in the world think that this is what they are. Although, you know, their religions may say, “Okay, when this dies, then you’re going to continue on.” But in terms of their actual experience, you know, this is me.

Choboji: I mean, I don’t know where you live.

Rick: Iowa. It’s about four or five hours west of Chicago.

Choboji: Do you live in quite a spiritual community?

Rick: Yeah.

Choboji: Yeah, but it’s not really like that so much in Scotland. If you go down and say stuff like maybe they say in California, you know, you get a bat over the head. It’s not like … they’re not walking about going, “Yeah, I’m perfect and I know it.” Yeah, a lot of misery and suffering.

Rick: Why do you think that … maybe we’ve covered this, but I don’t think we could have covered it adequately. You know, what is it that keeps people in misery? Why is it that we don’t just spontaneously awaken to our true nature in the course of growing up?

Choboji: I’ve got absolutely no idea.

Rick: Like, for instance, in your book you mentioned that you felt like animals were more enlightened than people because they’re so innocent and guileless. I don’t know if you use that adjective. Ken Wilber argues that this is the pre-rational fallacy where a simpler form of life is seen as enlightened because it doesn’t have all the complexity of the human being. But in fact, the stage of complex human life with all of its slings and arrows is a necessary transitional phase that we actually, in the course of our evolution, do have to go through before getting on to the trans-rational, which is kind of simple and innocent like an animal, but with the wisdom of self-realization, which the animal doesn’t have.

Choboji: Yeah, no, absolutely. But I think, going from the Buddhist world and these concepts that animals are lower, when I got rid of those concepts, I could actually see that if we’re not progressing on our journey of life and the laws of nature and the path, then generally people stagnate. And that stagnation, I mean, I used to think people were emotionally 12 years old on average, but my nephew comes around and he’s 4 years old and that’s where I put most people. You know, it’s like you’ve got a TV, it’s like get upset if someone touches their toy. It’s like, “My toy, my toy, my toy.” Or they’ll give some opinion about philosophy, but all they’re doing is saying, “No, no, no.” There’s just this need. The expression of their “no” is sophisticated, but their emotional connection with another human being and the ability to let go and surrender and open up to them is that of a 4 year old. So, the journey takes us, yeah, we go through the mind, back to return to innocence, has a depth to it. So, the formless is formless. You can’t mark it, but there’s depth to it. It’s invisible, like the psychological realm is invisible, that depth, but it’s there. So, you know when you meet somebody who’s consciously awake and you’re consciously trying to move into there, then something happens that never happens if you just go down to watch football.

Rick: Which is a good, yeah, that in itself is a good point. The company you keep makes a difference. If you just hang out at the bar watching football or if you hang out in a satsang with Mooji, there’s going to be a different influence.

Choboji: Yeah, so to dismiss that with an intellectual understanding of oneness or consciousness, everything is already perfect, for me it’s just foolish.

Rick: Yeah, I think we could perhaps explain it in terms of a confusion of levels. There is a level on which everything is perfect and nothing ever happened and there is no person and there is no volition and all that stuff, but then that’s one level. But that level doesn’t obviously apply to all the other levels, just as in physics. You have the quantum mechanical level or the Planck scale or whatever, and the laws of nature on that level are completely different than the laws on the obvious Newtonian level, the surface level of life. And just because you understand those laws on the quantum level doesn’t mean you can go jumping off buildings. Gravity is going to do its thing.

Choboji: Yeah, exactly. It’s part of that wanting to know and wanting to be in control, like the ego. You don’t want to go, “Oh, I’ve got to spend say 30 years with a master, it’s like, nah, I don’t really need that in the West.” But the expressions of the laws, wherever we look, I think it’s Ram Dass, I remember listening to Ram Dass, wherever you look there’s laws. You go to music, there’s laws. Music is the best example for me. If you decide you don’t want to do anything, that’s punk. And your expression is very, very limited. Then you can all play in unison together. It’s powerful, but monotonous. Then you learn the laws, and if you get stuck in the technique, you never really become a great creator. But when you learn the technique, you meet someone else who’s learned the technique, then you completely let go and go, “I’m not following any of these laws.” Everything you play is in harmony. And it’s a higher harmony than just the punk, where you go, “I’m not going to learn anything, I can do what I want.” And to think that’s the same thing.

Rick: It’s a good metaphor. If you really want to attain mastery, then have a master. And no great violinist ever learned it on his own, or no great pianist. They studied under a master who was adept in that instrument. So I guess the curiosity is, why is there such an aversion to that in some spiritual circles? What you were saying earlier, this feeling like, “I don’t want to bother going through 30 years of training,” or just content with the intellectual concept of, “Oh, we’re all enlightened, and therefore why should there be any distinction between this guy sitting up on the chair and myself?” I don’t know, what do you say?

Choboji: I think it’s been the same since time immemorial. The ego doesn’t want to surrender. It takes a very easy option these days. I think in the world of Zen, they knew that they were a Buddha. They’d learned that very young. But they’d still sit with a master until they realized it. But there’s still part of the culture to be with the master.

Rick: I mean, obviously it’s an area open for abuse, so there’s that element. Oh yeah, and that gives them all a bad name in a way. You make people suspicious of all of them, but that’s not the reality. There are some good ones out there.

Choboji: But yeah, essentially you’ve just fallen in love with someone. It’s like Manjushri with Buddha. When he became enlightened, he loved Buddha even more, because then he realized how amazing he was at how he was expressing himself. It was the same with the Tibetan master, Je Tsongkhapa. Even those who were enlightened couldn’t believe how enlightened he was. That expression was so incredible. I feel it’s the same with Mooji, that there’s many masters, but Mooji’s expression is so … When I met him, I just thought I was meeting Rumi. The aura of saintly-hood was just impalpable.

Rick: Yeah, and for people who have a problem with that, use the example of electricity. There’s this universal electrical field, and then there are all these implements that we power with it. There are little light bulbs and bigger light bulbs and refrigerators and blenders and toasters. They’re all, you could say, channeling or expressing the same electricity, but they do so very differently. Just giving the analogy to light bulbs, there’s a big difference in terms of illumination between a 1000 watt bulb and a 15 watt bulb in terms of how it’s going to light up a room. Everybody who sits in a room with somebody like Mooji, they’re all basically that same field. But the reason they’re there and the reason Mooji’s there is that he’s somehow managed to reflect that electricity more fully. And the word electricity here obviously would mean consciousness, and that can, to stretch the analogy, help all those other light bulbs shine more brightly.

Choboji: Yeah, that’s a wonderful analogy. And then you get into the magnificence of it and the no comparison, because maybe you are drawn to one Master or you’re drawn to another, but each Master you’re drawn to will be a different light coming off him, a different experience and a different connection. And then, as you know, you must know from doing all these talks, that this field, spirituality, is the most bizarre, paradoxical world possible, isn’t it? It’s like, you can say everything we said, but it doesn’t change the fact that you are that. And there’s nothing you need to do, and all these things are true too. If you can journey with that sense of wonder to it, it’s just keeping that open mind. Just like, “Okay, concepts are fantastic to play with.” It’s the Zen thing, isn’t it? First there’s a mountain, then there’s no mountains, then there is. That phase, when there’s no mountains, is just unpleasant for quite a lot of people. And that’s when the arrogance can come, and that’s when you can say, “No, it’s all just consciousness.” That’s when you’re stuck in that realm.

Rick: If I could define spirituality, based on my current understanding and experience, it would be to say that it’s the embracing of paradox, the embracing of the full range of possibilities, which compared within themselves, between themselves, are very paradoxical. How can you say there is no mountain and yet there is a mountain? Both those things don’t make any sense if put in the same sentence, and yet it’s absolutely true. So real spiritual development means a growing in the ability to embrace the totality with all of its diversity and paradox and so on, and harmoniously contain it.

Choboji: Yeah, Mooji said to me, “Don’t make tattoos out of my words.” And by the time one year comes, that’s absolutely not relevant at all. For myself, I’ll contradict myself within a paragraph when I’m talking to someone, which all points to what is to be fluid.

Rick: And it’s not like you’re wrong the first thing you said, and you’re right the second thing, or vice versa. It’s that both are true, even though they’re perhaps contradictory.

Choboji: So you really start moving in the journey when you realize you don’t know anything. When you existentially know that you can’t know, then everything you learn is a wonder. Like Socrates, before he was going to get killed, I heard that somebody was doing some painting or something, and he said, “Oh, can you teach me that?” And they’re like, “But you’re going to die tomorrow.” And he went, “Then it’ll be one more thing I know before I die.” And his essence is not knowing. So that’s when everything becomes magnificent. For me, I’m just only concerned that someone else should enjoy their life, that life should be a great enjoyment. You become speechless with the beauty. Ramakrishna, when he was young, and he went to the river, and a flock of birds flew up in front of him, and he passed out because the beauty was so intense. And that’s how everyone’s life can be. And that’s how that spirit, that feel, is a better way to travel on the journey, as far as I’m concerned.

Rick: Well you said an interesting thing a little while ago, and you’ve said some interesting things since. A little while ago you said, you used the word “stagnation,” and I think you used it in conjunction with the word “suffering.” And I would suggest that if a person is suffering, then they’re somehow stuck. And that as soon as there’s progress, then the suffering will abate. And it may be that relative to what’s possible, they’re still suffering, but relative to what they’re moving out of, they feel a sense of fulfillment or joy or relief because the suffering is diminishing or the bliss is increasing, whichever way you want to put it. So perhaps that’s what we were talking earlier about, litmus tests for evolution or for spiritual development. Perhaps that’s one, if there’s a continuing sense of less suffering and more joy, then something good is happening.

Choboji: That’s the marker at the end of suffering. I haven’t come across anything else. When you’re no longer suffering, that’s when you’re awake. But those levels are like the parental voice that can, in our heads, is what makes a lot of us suffer. And when we develop a sense of “I” around a parental voice, what you should and shouldn’t do, there generally tends to be a person who has low self-esteem, guilt, depression, that’s when they stagnate, when they can’t get past that. And when you have a release into that, the child, “I can do what I want,” that is tremendous release. It’s quite blissful if you’ve been with a Master and you’ve been getting nowhere, and then you go, “Fuck it,” walk away, and this tremendous release can feel like some kind of liberation. But it’s always causal. This is another marker. If you’re practicing Tantra, then you’re trying to cause bliss. So anything caused, we know, anything that comes, goes. So it’s these levels of suffering and release, like the tension in life, the conflict, the polarities, and bliss can reside in the tension, the sex, the release of a tension. And a lot of bliss is a release of a tension.

Rick: When I refer to bliss, I’m not speaking of that which you would derive from any particular outer experience. If that were the case, then winning the lottery would mean you just had a big spiritual epiphany. I’m talking more of an innate, essential kind of thing that’s there regardless of external circumstances.

Choboji: That was, for me, when… I just couldn’t quite believe it. I just thought, “No, it can’t be me.” You’re waking up every day and just bliss every day.

Rick: Did this happen once you had been studying with Mooji?

Choboji: This was before. With Mooji, I just dropped the last… the “I” that was coming with that. There was still an “I” that was coming with that.

Rick: Like you were walking around, “Hey, I’m a really blissful dude,” and then…

Choboji: it’s like you notice that over time, you just… I’ve heard about other Masters talking about this time period where things settle down, and it’s almost this… It doesn’t change. And so someone said to me recently, “But isn’t that an object?”

Rick: What an object? Your bliss?

Choboji: Yeah.

Rick: And how did you respond?

Choboji: My first instinct is, “What difference does it make?” Because it’s always there, and it’s innate to your being.

Rick: Yeah, and if it’s always there and it’s innate to your being, how can it be an object? What other object is always there?

Choboji: Yeah. It just sounded like more conjecture than anything else. I think I’ve lost the track of where I was going.

Rick: I’ll get you back on track. There was something you said a few minutes ago about certainty. And it’s funny, we were talking about the wonder of life versus the sort of adamant, “I am right,” and “I know this,” and so on. And it may sound to people the way we’re talking, like, “Hey, these guys sound like they are certain about things. They’re making this pronouncement and that pronouncement.” But perhaps in our defence I could suggest that all of this is offered with a spirit of gentleness and lack of fundamentalism. There’s just an acknowledgment that next week we might be saying something entirely different. It’s not like we’re trying to encapsulate truth in words. We’re trying to use words to just sort of enliven a sense of it. But with the acknowledgment implicit that words are always a pretty inadequate tool for doing that, but they’re the best thing we have if we’re going to have a conversation.

Choboji: Yeah, I don’t know if it’s Lao Tzu who said that, it’s like, “Everybody seems certain except for me.” There’s always that hesitation. That’s actually going back to my point. It took me years before I would talk. I’m only just starting to talk. It’s like, whatever I say, I just go, “No, that’s not right. That’s not right. I’m not communicating it right.” Even in this interview, I’m not communicating it right. So if anyone’s thinking that, I don’t know. Fundamentally, I don’t know. And the world is just pure wonder. But it’s like an actor. I study acting. You cannot teach somebody to be an actor. What you’re doing is going, “Don’t do that. That’s blocking you. That’s blocking you. That’s blocking you.” Or chipping away at the marble to reveal what’s there. You don’t create the marble. So what we’re doing with the words is that via negativity. It’s very difficult to posit it in a positive way because then the mind can cling to, “You think you’re better than me.” That can come.

Rick: There’s that Zen saying of the finger pointing at the moon. Maybe you’ve even brought that up in this interview. That’s what we’re talking about. The finger is like the words that we use. They’re not the moon, but they can point to it. So look up, don’t look at the finger.

Choboji: Some people like to paint it golden and take photographs of it.

Rick: But you know when you listen to a talk by Adyashanti or Mooji, or somebody who’s really good at expressing this, or read a book by these people, you’re just reading words. It’s like ink on paper, but it somehow shifts you into that space.

Choboji: I’ve heard silence is golden, but speech is silver. Again, that’s an extreme. When you fall into that space, and you know the way of saying it, is that things are no longer extreme for you, ever. You’re constantly fresh to whoever you meet. If I took this interview to some people that I know, they just couldn’t believe it’s me. Because when you’re in a certain space with someone, and if you love them, then you’re not going to impose some kind of spirituality on them. You just be with someone as they are. And that’s completely fresh and open. And whatever they reveal is just wonderment to you. It’s this paradox that when you realize that everyone else is more important than you are, then you’ve got something that you’ve got to share.

Rick: Now some people might say, “More important?” or just equal? That we’re all sort of the same? Whether it’s Chobo, or the Pope, or the Dalai Lama, or Mooji, is everyone more important, or are we all fundamentally as important? In what sense do you say “more important”?

Choboji: Well, I would say both. But when you’re inside someone, I don’t know if you’ve got … do you have any children?

Rick: No, but animals. And I know some children.

Choboji: Oh, your wife?

Rick: Yeah, I’ve got one of those.

Choboji: If your wife was about to be hit by a bus, you wouldn’t think twice about jumping in front. She’d be more important to you. Because your Self’s not there. Sometimes it just seems unbearable, the experience on another person, the compassion that you feel when the Self’s not there, their Self isn’t there, and it’s just merging. So you can’t put it correctly in language. So if you take it as a concept, then you maybe try to serve people, but if you do that as a concept, you’ll be bitter underneath, there’ll be no real bliss there.

Rick: I see what you mean. And there’s some beautiful stories in the ancient scriptures about that too, about people being so selfless that they’d even throw themselves on the fire to provide food for a starving person or something like that. Not that I would do that myself probably, but just a sense of utter selflessness, where not only is the guest God, but everything is God and you’re just serving God in all you see and do.

Choboji: Again, if you take it intellectually, then you’ll think it’s this sort of thing inside you.

Rick: Right.

Choboji: It’s like …

Rick: And you’re saying it’s an innocent way of functioning.

Choboji: And it’s always different and feels different with everyone. So it’s like you can go to a Master and you can feel maybe unconditional love at one point, then the rest of it might hammer you, or she, and just criticize you, maybe get angry with you, but they’re not doing it with your essential being, they’re doing it with your cultured personality.

Rick: Which they’re trying to mold into a more …

Choboji: Get rid of. Rick and Choboji laugh. And allow that natural … going back to the selfish bodhisattva, that natural … Ramana talks about it, doesn’t he? That you don’t need to cultivate good qualities, you just need to find the I Am within and all good qualities will arise spontaneously. “Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and all else shall be added unto thee.” So if you try not to make it a rigid thing, then … this is the path of love, so it’s good to have that I Am practice. For me, that’s my heart practice that I give. The I Am, that’s the heart practice.

Rick: And can you describe that in an interview, or is it something you really need to teach in a teaching context?

Choboji: Well, I generally go through the body, you know. If you’re anaesthetised and you’ve got your eyes closed, someone cuts off your leg, has your sense of being diminished, you haven’t felt anything, they cut off your other leg, has your sense of being diminished, you cut off your arm, your other arm, then when you wake up after you’ve finished being anaesthetised, your sense of being will be the same, then a second later, a new “I“ will develop, the one that’s just relating to a torso, and that’s the changing I. And maybe the satori, or the zen masters, will slap people, give that one second where there’s a break between … there’s like the I that continuously manifests, the different I you have, where you get a haircut, you have a different sense of I. So that’s the one with the body. But if you have all these things taken away, you realize it’s not your being. So your being is still there. Then your thoughts, you know, you see your thoughts, you see your thoughts, so there’s that sense of a being, but there’s an eye that arises from the body and mind, and that one is doing the practice of “I am”, and that’s the one you have to catch.

Rick: And so do you advocate sitting for X amount of time per day, and going through this process in order to … or is it something you do all the time while you’re walking down the street or whatever?

Choboji: Eventually it has to be 24/7, and then it’s no effort. The end of effort is effortlessness, it’s the end result. You can’t make a choice to be choiceless. But depending where people are at, but in general, and even the masters, I don’t know how to say the guy’s name, the guy who wrote “I am that”, Sri Nisargadatta?

Rick: Oh, Nisargadatta?

Choboji: Yeah, I’m not very good. He still used to do his sadhana.

Rick: Sure, and he used to sing bhajans for that matter, devotional songs and stuff, every day.

Choboji: Yes, 24/7, but these things still have their own expression to them, their own expression in the world. So from the beginning I’d say, ordain yourself into truth, just like Buddha did, and practice 20 minutes, commit to a year of practicing every day at least 20 minutes. That’s what I’d say to someone in the beginning, because it’s important to make a commitment.

Rick: And if people want to have a clear understanding of what this practice is that you’re referring to, they can get in touch with you, and probably have something on your website, or you have some YouTube video or something. Do you ever find… well, actually, before I go on to that thought, I just want to play with the notion of what you were just saying, of culturing an experience of the witness or the I am, versus having that be so ingrained, so established, that it’s just your natural way of functioning, the foundation of your life. I used to be kind of opposed, conceptually, to the idea of in any way attempting to witness or be detached or any such thing. Now I’ve gotten a little bit more liberal in my understanding about that. It seems that it can have, from what I’m hearing from people, it can have an actual effect of developing that state as a genuine permanent state. But ideally we’re talking about something which you wouldn’t even ever have to think about. It would just be the way you are, just the way you don’t have to think about breathing or digesting. It’s just a spontaneous style of functioning that gets cultured eventually.

Choboji: Yeah. I’ve never heard anyone put it better than Mooji when someone said, “How do you remember to be the Self?” He says, “I can’t remember to be the Self. I am the Self.”

Rick: Yeah. It’s like it’s not an act of volition on the part of some individual.

Choboji: It’s just who you are. So the cultivation is like, again we’ll just say that there’s no rules. But the cultivation is like boiling water. From zero to 99.99 it’s water, then it’s steam.

Rick: That’s a good point.

Choboji: Essentially they’re water, but there’s a difference between 99 degrees and 1 degree. But it’s still just water. So that’s what the cultivation is. theIf we take it into our own, it can happen any time. But without, then the medicine can become the poison. So it’s just this tricky moving around until you realize you’re already that. And that incredible experience, like why did Bodhidharma laugh when he realized, what was it he was referring to when I’ve always been that? It’s so simple, so obvious that we miss it. Like Buddha talks about, we develop an intellectual understanding of it. That comes with feelings. Thoughts come with feelings. So it’s not like an intellectual understanding means it’s devoid of feeling. It has feelings to it. It’s almost like you’re imbibing a sense of it. It’s almost replicating it until it happens. Melting into it is a good way of putting it, ice melting into water.

Rick: In case somebody missed it, you made a great point there, which is that in physics they call it a phase transition, when something like water goes from non-boiling to boiling, water to steam at a certain temperature. And there are other examples of that, but in most examples you don’t notice anything unusual about the water when it’s at 99 degrees centigrade or 211 Fahrenheit. But when that one degree shift takes place, boom, there’s a whole big change in the way it is. So a person could be very close to awakening and not realize it, but then when that shift takes place, it’s night and day difference. Another point you made there, which is that at a certain stage, or for certain people, practice can be vital and really beneficial and influential. At another stage it could be a detriment. It could be an anchor around your ankle, and it’s time to let it go. Another thing I unfortunately see, and you address it in your book, is that a lot of people mix up those stages when they start teaching. They say universally, generically, “Oh, give up the practices. You don’t need them. A practice only reinforces the notion of a practice.” Or such things, which are really not appropriate to be given as a mass instruction, because chances are you’re only speaking to a fraction of the people for whom that’s pertinent.

Choboji: Yeah, I think the Masters of old, when they’d say, “You are that,” or “You are the Buddha,” that was the culmination point, wasn’t it, of the practice and being with the Master. At the right time, they would say it, and say it in secret sometimes, and some of the teachings in secret, because if you gain … There’s a phrase in Tibet, “Do not turn a god into a demon,” and that you turn the teachings into something that actually cripples your life. You should be opening up to people, that sense where you’re intuitive with other people, you’re falling in love with them, falling in love with the world around you. If your defenses are getting stronger, and your ideas of the world, even if they say, “Manifest in … it’s all consciousness,” like the Jeff Foster cartoon, then you’ve become a fundamentalist. So, you go through these things, and it’s very difficult to skip out of being like that. And it’s good to be in that. If you’ve got spiritual friends, it can be very helpful. They can mirror your back. But then again, oftentimes, spiritual friends can be jealous. If you suddenly attend something, they suddenly say, “No, you haven’t.”

Rick: That was one of my motivations for starting this show, because I live in a town where about 3,000 people have been meditating for decades, and people are waking up. I’d hear from friends that, “Hey, I woke up and I told a few friends and they told me I was on an ego trip, so now I’m going to keep my mouth shut.” So I thought, “Why don’t I make a show where people can all tell their story, and then people in general can see that it’s happening to people like them, and maybe they’ll be more appreciative or accepting of those who make such a pronouncement, and at the same time, maybe it will instil some confidence in them.” Of course, like everything we say, there’s a flip side. You can somehow have some little awakening and then get up on a soapbox and proclaim yourself the next messiah. That can happen. Yeah, it’s like, “Phew!”

Choboji: You’ll know if somebody’s trying to tell you what to do with your life, somebody’s trying to get stuff off you, you know, just have some kind of power over you. But yeah, it’s a tricky business, isn’t it?

Rick: It is. It’s like whatever you say, you can sort of say, ”All right, I’ve said that, now let’s take the complete opposite and say that too, and we’ll have a more balanced picture.” Do you ever find that you feel like you’ve lost it, like you’ve just gotten into sort of a muddled state again, and confused, depressed, or do you find that you’ve kind of gone beyond that kind of fluctuation and it’s a pretty smooth ride now?

Choboji: Yeah, I’ve gone beyond that.

Rick: Good. Did you go through a phase where it was on and off, up and down?

Choboji: Yeah.

Rick: So, like you really grew really nice for a couple of days and then really horrible for a couple of days, that kind of thing?

Choboji: No, not since I realized my ego isn’t me. No, it’s just continuous. Like, even under intense moments in life, your energies may not be there, but there’s still this sense of, “This is perfect.” It’s just perfect. And this never wanting to change it.

Rick: Yeah. I’m sorry.

Choboji: Just not to be confused, you can still do things and make choices, but underneath there’s no wish to change it, so it’s a complete paradox for the mind. The mind can’t get that.

Rick: Yeah. Well, you know, even Christ said on the eve of his crucifixion, ”If it is possible, let this cup pass from me.” And then he said, “Oh well, after all, let thy will be done.” So, obviously there’s things we would rather not have to experience, either in anticipation of them or as we’re actually experiencing them. But, as you say, when there’s this… Why don’t you say it? What I was about to say, I’d like to hear it in your words.

Choboji: Well, I’m going through, during this whole interview, loads of pain.

Rick: Oh yeah, you said you had some intestinal problem or food poisoning.

Choboji: Yeah, food poisoning. So it’s like, it’s better when it’s not there.

Rick: Yeah, yeah.

Choboji: But it’s still, it’s perfect. Yeah, it is as it is. The mind, it’s that sense that the mind is no longer judging life. Which is, again, a beautiful sphere of spirituality, where you say it’s all God, God’s will, yeah. Where you’ve taken it out of the ego’s hands and you accept life as it is. You can almost say awakening is that just complete, deep acceptance of everything that happens. And in that acceptance, the negative aspects disappear. That’s the kind of magic.

Rick: And would you advocate that also as a practice? The culture, the sort of attitude of accepting everything just as it is? Or is it more of a description of a state of realization rather than a means to attain it?

Choboji: Well, it can all help the witnessing, because, like I said to a friend, if you accept everything the way it is, then you accept that you want to punch someone. Then you realize that’s where your block is. Whatever they’ve reached, your block is, now I want to, I’d quite like to hit that person. Then you can work with that block. You can recognize where it is within yourself. And then you can move on from it. Again, you trust that the awareness within it transforms it. If you don’t trust that the awareness will transform, you’ll never fully accept it. And you’ll want to overcome it. So that can only happen.

Rick: But you’re not suggesting that you do punch the person, you’re saying that you kind of… Because obviously this whole thing could be interpreted as just doing whatever the hell you please. And that could be problematic.

Choboji: I would… one of the roots on the path, the lineage I’m working on and the book I’m working on next is the stations on the way that everything is moving. And one of them is taking responsibility for your life. You can’t bypass that. If you decide to punch them, then you have to take on the consequences of that action. And because one of the traps that you can fall into, if you’re just on the emptiness path, is thinking that other people don’t matter, or it’s just a dream, or they’re not important, and they’re not to be taken into consideration. And if you just allow the parental voice to disappear, to do whatever you want, you have to accept the consequences of your actions. You could go to jail. You’re probably going to regret it, because you realize that that just came from an act of separation. You could get punched back. Yeah, punched back. So those are natural laws of life. You soon realize that when you’re young, don’t you? You don’t really need anyone to tell you if you go around punching people, you’re not going to have a very enjoyable life.

Rick: Well, it’s again this issue of different laws or principles or rules applying to different levels. And each level, what is that Christ said? I keep quoting Christ a lot today. He said, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” There’s sort of, you have to give each level its due. You stop at red lights and you go on green lights and you pay your taxes. All these things have their, even though on some level they don’t exist or they’re absurd or whatever, you have to have the whole package simultaneously. I think in your book you use the word “multidimensional,” I believe, which I like. It’s like we kind of incorporate or straddle numerous dimensions as a human being. The name of the game is to live them all simultaneously and act within each strata or each level as is appropriate to that level.

Choboji: Yeah, and the expression of the relative, the divine and the relative, is those expressions that come out of the emptiness. So if you have to be careful, if you just follow the Advaita path or the emptiness path, you can lose out on the expressions. Obviously when you finally reach attain, you realize then your love will express. But if you haven’t manifested the vehicle for expression, like martial arts, if you haven’t learned the martial arts, no matter how enlightened you are, you won’t be able to move your body in those fluent ways. If you haven’t learned Spanish, you won’t be able to express your enlightenment in Spanish. You won’t be able to say anything without a translator. So everything can be expressed, talking about the laws, and the more multidimensional you are, the more you’ve got a salt to you and a depth that you can express. But it’s also, there’s the societal laws and things that we do with our mind, and then there’s the more Daoist laws, like you’re going to die. So that’s another station. There’s no dogma required to contemplate this, you’re going to die. The Buddha said it was like his biggest meditation, like an elephant’s footprint in the sand compared to any other animal, because then that really has a go at the ego.

Rick: There’s that famous painting by Rembrandt or somebody of the monk contemplating a skull, holding it in his hand, looking at it.

Choboji: Yeah, it’s the … Then you’ll … When you move with that death awareness, then that can be very difficult to take, because then life can seem meaningless. What’s the point? I’m going to die. So you need many aspects of your being to turn that around, so that life is beautiful because you’re going to die. It’s meaningful because it has no meaning. Because things don’t last, they’re beautiful. But in the beginning, in our culture, the word death is worse than a swear word. You’re going to die. People’s reaction is, you’ve said the worst thing possible. So these manifest truths are still … They can help go into your expression and the love of another. Another is more important or just as important as you are. That’s no dogma required. But you might not be in tune with that truth. And then if you are in tune, the expression … We’re talking about those different depths of expression. Buddha said that he would rather have someone on the path of love than someone who’s realized emptiness for themselves.

Rick: Interesting. I never heard that before about the Buddha. And it harkens back to something you said a couple of minutes ago about appreciating the divine in the world, or appreciating the world as an expression of the divine, which has a lot more sumptuousness to it than the sort of cold Advaita, you know, nothing is real.

Choboji: That’s right. Everything is just consciousness. But it’s like, I don’t know what life is. I mean, do you know what life is? Do you know why we’re here?

Rick: Oh yeah.

Choboji: You haven’t written a book yet.

Rick: No, I’m kidding. Nobody knows why life is here.

Choboji: And so this incredible expression, and if we understand those laws, each of those laws, lived correctly, expresses the divine more sweetly. Which, that alone is incredible understanding, to want to then dismiss the world. But the masters would teach dismissing the world in the beginning simply because you’re too attached to it. If you just follow your bodily pleasures, you’ll become even more attached and identified with the body. So that’s the phase of renouncing the world. But it has, as far as I’m concerned, become corrupted, and then we have a life-negative culture.

Rick: My former teacher, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, outlined an interesting sequence of development which very much parallels what you’ve just been saying, which is that he said initially you do get into this flat, unbounded, it’s all consciousness and I’m detached from everything else and the world isn’t real and all that stuff. But he said that the heart actually can’t tolerate that, that the heart hates separation, and that the heart begins to move to close that gap. And that over time appreciation of the relative begins to grow and become enriched and you begin to see more and more the divine quality of the world. And that appreciation just becomes more and more profound until the desire to actually meet the creator of it becomes compelling. Sort of like if you went to an art gallery and you saw some art that you really loved, you might want to meet the artist. And eventually that yearning is fulfilled, and eventually one comes to realize that actually it is all consciousness, it is all the self. When you look at a galaxy or a flower or whatever, you see yourself in that as, not your individual self, but you see that as being the same stuff as your unmanifest self was known to be from when it first dawned. But that’s a progression that can take some time and it certainly doesn’t in any way imply coldness or uncaring or lack of compassion or just somebody falls down the street and you say it’s their karma. Nothing like that. It would actually make one more engaged with the world, more caring for the world as it developed.

Choboji: Yeah, so you know, the people who are listening, like what we’re saying is essentially just be careful that you don’t dismiss these wonderful expressions of life to get to that emptiness. Because if you are dismissing them, then ask yourself, “Why?” And if you are in a hurry, again ask yourself, “Why is that story of the bodhisattva passing on his way to meet God and there’s two people under the tree, the guy meditating, and he’s been meditating for seven lives and he says, ‘How much longer have I got to go? Can you ask God?'” And he’s like, “Okay,” and there’s a guy dancing under the tree. He says, “Do you want to know?” and he’s like, “Not really.” And so he goes and asks God and out of curiosity he asks about the guy dancing as well. And he comes back and he says to the meditator, “You’ve got two more lives to go,” and he’s like, “Really? You’ve not been trying so hard?” And he’s really down and discouraged. So he goes to the guy dancing under the tree and he says, “Do you want to know?” And he’s like, “Well, okay, you might as well tell me.” He says, “As many leaves are on the tree, that’s how many lives you’ve got.” And he’s like, “Great!” And starts dancing in happiness and in that moment he attains.

Rick: That’s a great story.

Choboji: So it’s not dismissal. Life is not a burden. And a dismissive attitude of others’ paths is … that’s what it can be. It can sound like we’re dismissing them, but then that’s the mind. That’s what the mind does.

Rick: Dismissing the dismissers, huh?

Choboji: Yeah, it’s like you’re judging someone and they say, “But you just judge me by judging that.” That’s the mind. That’s when you’re mind trapped. You have to know the difference between someone speaking from their heart and somebody speaking from their mind. It’s … Yeah, it’s the feel, that dryness that can happen, isn’t it? As it’s said, if you’re just on the path of emptiness, there can be a dryness to you. And the path of lovers can be like a garden, or the path of meditation is like a desert, which has its own beauty, the beauty of a desert, the stars and the beauty of a garden. But these are the different traps you can fall in, and that’s that detached, dismissive feeling that being detached means that you’re not engaged. Being content means you’re content for everything to happen, not you’re content for nothing to happen, that you don’t want to block your meditation. Then you can get attached to your meditation space, can’t you?

Rick: It’s what you just said evoked a thought in me, which is that when we talk about self-realization, or realizing your pure state, your essence, or whatever terminology, what is that actually? If we really get down to the nitty-gritty, what are we talking about? Are we not talking about that sort of ground state of the universe, that intelligence, call it God if you like, which is giving rise to all this? That’s essentially what we are, that deep inner silence is one with that, and is indistinguishable from that, that’s what we are. So that obviously likes to wake up in a form capable of waking up. It also likes to be a dog, it also likes to be a pile of dog poop, it also likes to be a tree. It’s sort of having all those experiences, and all those forms are sort of evolving in their capability of waking up, but they are not in a hurry, the tree is not in a hurry. Somehow your story of the dancing man under the tree reminded me of that. It’s like the whole play, and sometimes it’s actually called a play, in spiritual circles, lila, that the whole creation is said to be a lila, or a play of the divine. And if it’s a good movie, you don’t want it to end, you want this movie to keep going. And so things happen in good time, waking up happens in good time, and not waking up has its place too.

Choboji: Yeah, that’s the paradox again. And from what you are saying, the feel of it, the poetry of it, is that if you replace the word, the divine that wants to wake up, with unfathomable unknowableness.

Rick: I’m good with that, because obviously that’s what the divine is.

Choboji: So that feel that if you are out in nature with a tree, you don’t think, “Oh, that’s the divine,” you just stop. Because that thinking that’s divine, again, is a block.

Rick: It can be, but don’t you get that sense, if you are walking in the woods, or even walking down the city street, there’s this sort of… I mean if you look closely, either microscopically or just perceptually, isn’t there a sense of the amazing, like you say, the wonder, the amazing intelligence. If you look under a powerful microscope at what goes on inside of a single cell, it’s like, “Holy cow, who’s running this show? This is amazing!”

Choboji: I just meant it as, when you get into that level, it can be quite subtle. So it’s like, don’t look for the divine as almost like a practice or a word, because then it can again limit the wonderment. So it’s just within yourself, just have a feeling of wonderment, continuous wonderment, without labeling.

Rick: Yeah, yeah. It is subtle, and if it’s not subtle, then you’re not really having that experience, just as with the whole consciousness thing. If you’re not really experiencing it, it’s just a concept. Same with this appreciation of the divine we’re talking about. It’s an experiential thing, or it’s really kind of nothing.

Choboji: But you’re right, it’s sometimes my… This is for me one of the stations, again, to use the mind, to help you drop the mind, is when you turn your tap on, you have the sense of the unbelievable fortune that you’ve got hot running water, the miracle. Then whenever you get in a car, just the miracle that you’re in a car, that this can be manifested, and that imbibing that way of living a life is amazing.

Rick: Yeah, or you’re sitting on the ground looking at a bug crawling up your leg,

Choboji: and it’s like, could you make a bug like that?

Rick: What is the wondrous intelligence that could structure such a thing?

Choboji: And then that spirit, you reflect on your own being.

Rick: Yeah, I am that.

Choboji: Yeah. Then it’s like this layer upon infinite layers of just, “It can’t be, it can’t be.” That’s almost the spirit, “It cannot be.” It’s like, “What on earth is life?”

Rick: That’s great. So you’re really conveying that nicely. Because it’s one thing to say, “Oh, life is a wonder,” but you’re really bringing the spirit of that out. I really appreciate it. May everyone live in that sense of wonder.

Choboji: That’s the other aspect of the … I can’t not try and pluck the suffering from someone. Your joyful participation in the sorrows of the world, Joseph Campbell, talking about the Buddha, that someday suffering, and I remember suffering, for no reason. There’s no reason behind it. That’s part of the paradox, we’re talking about the growth and suffering, but essentially it’s just an illusion. Suffering and suffering and suffering, and then compassion arises spontaneously. You know, you could be sitting next to a Buddha and you could be a thousand miles away, just sitting there.

Rick: It’s a scary snake, we’ve got to get rid of the snake. But it’s only a rope. No, no, I saw it, it was a snake.

Choboji: Yeah, trust me. When you get past the rope, wait till we show you what’s on the other side. This whole tourist industry is based around the snake, isn’t it? And people go, “No, no, I know, it’s just a rope. Come to my shop and you can read a book about it.”

Rick: Well this obviously has implications for the whole state of the world and all the conflicts between nations and religions and ethnic groups and all that stuff. You address that a little bit towards the end of your book. You suggest that probably there should be no nations and all. I’m not so sure that that’s going to happen. Maybe it will, maybe someday there will be just one united planet, but it seems that cultures are so different. At least for the time being, there are going to be obviously different cultures and different countries and so on. But if all of that could be infused with a more unified awareness, then perhaps the cultures and countries could contribute the best they have to offer to each other without any sort of infringement upon their cultural values or their national integrity.

Choboji: I think about Star Trek. I think in the 60s, the things that are now available in our world are almost in Star Trek. The communications devices, almost like manifesting food.

Rick: That’s the one I want, yeah.

Choboji: I think the only thing that isn’t there is world peace. But symbols can be so important. You can imagine that instead of you go to the Olympic Games and it’s just one flag and it’s a picture of the earth, the power that could have. If you go to any university or any building, it’s just one flag, the flag of the earth. We’re moving into that one world consciousness, so the internet is an incredible tool for uniting everyone together, in the sense we’re all here together. It’s slowly coming in through the generative, it takes time, doesn’t it?

Rick: It takes time, yeah.

Choboji: I just think that would be a beautiful symbol. Just get rid of all the flags and have that.

Rick: Yeah, but obviously it has to come from within. And the root cause of it, of the strife and the disharmony is, “He’s different from me.” ”He wants what I’ve got, I want what he’s got.” That kind of stuff, where there’s not a unity that’s obviously not predominant.

Choboji: Yeah, that comes with the ego. So it will always be there. “You’re on the other side of the road, don’t like that, this is my side.” But we can continuously adapt and everything’s changing anyway, so it’s like, how do we change it in such a way that’s more beneficial and less suffering? Clearly nations are… well, it’s not clear, but to me it’s so ridiculous that it’s just time to get rid of the line on the little maps we’ve drawn.

Rick: Yeah, well in a way you could say maybe that you’re a visionary, you’re ahead of the curve and people have entertained these sorts of notions, but for it to become a reality it’s going to have to be based in experience. There really needs to be a spiritual awakening in which people experientially know to love their neighbor as their self, because their neighbor is their self, not just conceptually. And as long as it’s conceptual we’re going to keep having the fighting.

Choboji: Yeah, the conflict will never end. It’s good to have fun imagining.

Rick: Oh yeah, absolutely, and perhaps it helps to bring it about, to visualize it.

Choboji: Even if we had one world, world peace, there would still be conflicts going on the other side of the road. And the drama and the conflicts is part and parcel of the play. I mean, I’m studying theatre, so I know that unless you’ve got conflict, you’ve got no drama.

Rick: Yeah, it’s not very interesting. And obviously, even in the traditional, I refer to the scriptures sometimes because they do have some wisdom in them. Somebody once asked Maharishi, “Why are the gods and the demons always fighting in these stories, in the Vedic literature?” He said, “Because if there weren’t that fundamental polarity there would be no basis of creation, there wouldn’t be a creation.” You need some kind of polarity in order for there to be relativity and diversity.

Choboji: Yeah, exactly. And even, was it Jesus that said, “There will always be the poor?”

Rick: Yeah, “You’ll always have the poor with you,” right?

Choboji: Yeah.

Rick: If you’re wondering why I’m looking over there, it’s because Lila has made her appearance. She usually shows up in most interviews.

Choboji: Yeah, it’s funny because I was going to do the interview at my girlfriend’s flat, but the cat would…

Rick: Oh, I wouldn’t mind.

Choboji: I thought the cat would…

Rick: Sometimes she sits in my lap through the whole thing.

Choboji: Is it Lila?

Rick: Likela, yeah. Good. Well, this has been a lovely discussion. Is there anything you’d like to add in conclusion, or even not in conclusion, if there’s some whole area we haven’t touched upon?

Choboji: I think we’ve touched upon most things. In summary, I’m very much into the love and awareness, exploring both wings, that’s really important, but essentially always drop any dogma or belief. If there’s a dogma or a belief, I think I don’t need it, because to know who you are… Most things we talked about don’t require a dogma or a belief, they’re just sinking into truth.

Rick: Yeah.

Choboji: I think those are some words. This just goes on from what we were saying about, if we’re going to have a more universal expression of spirituality, it should be one where, let’s say, an alien can come down and we can share truth.

Rick: Yeah, I mean, truth isn’t even a human thing. Not only is it not a Christian or a Buddhist or a Muslim thing, it’s not even a human thing.

Choboji: I watched a film, Paul, and I came down and thought, yeah, you could go through Christianity, but if you said to Paul, “Who are you?” it would have the same relevance to anyone else.

Rick: True. Good.

Choboji: It’s lovely to meet you.

Rick: Yeah, I’ve really enjoyed this. I knew I would when I read your book. I thought, “Oh, this guy is a nice way of lengthening.” So, in conclusion then, I’ve been talking to Chobo, or Choboji., as the case may be. He’s written a book called “Melody and Silence” and is in the process of writing another one, as you said. When do you expect that one to be out?

Choboji: Oh, I have no idea.

Rick: When the guy under the tree gets enlightened, yeah. And you have a website which I’ll be linking to, which is what?


Rick:, good. This interview is one in an ongoing series. I think I’ve done about 160 of them now. They’re all archived at, B-A-T-G-A-P. There you will find a little discussion group that crops up around each interview that you can participate in, if you like. You’ll find all the other interviews archived, and there’s an alphabetical list down the right-hand side of the page of all the people that I’ve interviewed. You’ll also find a link to an audio podcast, if you would like to listen to this on your iPod while commuting or whatever. You can subscribe to that. It was broken for a while, and it just got fixed. There’s a “Donate” button, which I very much appreciate people clicking. If they feel inclined, it helps to keep the whole thing moving. There’s a little tab that you can click on to fill out your name and email address and be notified by email every time a new interview is posted. If you’d like to be notified, do that. You can also subscribe to the YouTube channel, and YouTube will notify you when a new one is posted. All right, so that pretty much covers it. Thank you for listening or watching. Thanks a lot, Choboji.

Choboji: Thank you.

Rick: We’ll see everybody next week. The next interview is going to be with Jan Fraser, who I think you’ll all find delightful. I’ve really enjoyed reading her books. See you then.