Rick Archer: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of interviews with spiritually Awakening people, have done 499 of them now. That’s what this one is. And if you haven’t seen others and would like to, go to batgap.com, bat gap, and look under the past interview’s menu, where you’ll see all the previous ones archived in various ways. This program is made possible by supportive, appreciative listeners and viewers. So, if you appreciate it and feel like supporting it, there’s a PayPal button on every page of the site. And that little sentence I just said, it’s just about the only thing we do is to raise funds. If you don’t like them, make a big fuss of it, but the support is appreciated and is essential. My guest today is Giovanni Dienstmann. That’s right, right pronunciation. Giovanni, some sirens going back right here. Giovanni is a spiritual practitioner and teacher and the creator of LiveandDare, one of the top five most visited meditation blogs on the planet, far as you know, on any planet. As an author, meditation coach and speaker, Giovanni helps people overcome anxiety and stress to live a more calm and centered life through spiritually-inspired personal development work. So having read that sentence, just now it makes it sound like it’s one of these sorts of that he’s offering a sort of practical, down to earth, benefit-oriented, oriented approach to spirituality, which very often doesn’t even involve the word spirituality. People meditate and do yoga and stuff to deal with stress. But Giovanni himself is very deeply, spiritually motivated, and has been since the age of 14. Spirituality has been the center of his life since then. And in his journey, he has practiced over 9000 hours of meditation, and counting, tried 70 different techniques and nearly became a monk twice. When you say that to people, Giovanni, that you’ve tried 70 Different techniques, do you get accused of digging a whole lot of shallow wells instead of one deep one?
Giovanni Dienstmann: When I talk to spiritual practitioners, yes, they feel like some of them will feel like, why have you tried so many? Don’t you get one and focus and go deep into that one. But when I’m talking to people who are approaching meditation as a practice, of healing, of growth, for the other non-spiritual benefits of the practice, then they appreciate. Okay, this guy has practice different techniques. So maybe he can help me find out which one is best for me.
Rick Archer: Yeah.
I think that you know it’s different for different people. But for some people, maybe it’s a really good idea to shop around and try a bunch of different things and then settle on one or two or three that really work for you. And how would you know which ones work unless you’ve tried a number of them.
Giovanni Dienstmann: And in the past, this was never possible, because we didn’t have, it wasn’t available, all of these paths are not available, the guru that you meet, the guru of your town, or whatever the religion that you were born into, those are the methods and the techniques that you’ll be exposed to. But nowadays, we have, we have all these books, all these masters, all these videos, and we can learn about all these paths. So, I, well I recommend people to find one meditation and one path that works best for them, and really focus on that, unless you expose yourself to many practices, it’s very hard to find the right one for you, in my opinion.
Rick Archer: Yeah. When I first learned back in the 60s, there weren’t that many things around. There was TM, which I learned, there was Zen. I went to a Zen Center once in New York City, had my car towed away, spent the night sleeping in a car storage lot. I was an adventurer. And there was Guru Maharaji, the 14-year-old perfect Master. And there was Silva Mind Control. And I suppose and there was Yogananda’s technique, you know, there’s SRF, and much more at least that was that I was aware of these days. Obviously, with the internet and everything else. There’s a huge supermarket full of things that one could potentially do. It must it might be a little overwhelming for some people, where do they start? What do I do?
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah, well, in all these techniques, all of the ones that I tried their traditional techniques, so many of them are from the Tantras, there is the book The Thing Yana by Dama Tantra, which teaches you 108, 112 Different meditations. So many of them came from that book.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I remember hearing about that back in back in the 70s, that it was said that there are that many different ways to transcend. And, you know, theoretically, you could try them all, I suppose, on this on this topic. You know, people are going to maybe try different things, and then at a certain point, they’re going to do something, and it really works for them profoundly. And then they think, okay, that’s the one for me, has that been your experience?
Giovanni Dienstmann: in certain phases of my journey as So, in the very beginning, one of my first paths or Zen Buddhism, and I almost became a monk there. And at that time, I was only practicing Zen. So, I didn’t care about any other teaching any other technique, it was on his exam. But then when they moved on from that path, and I think we might zoom into that later on, in the interview, when I moved on from the path, then I went to the path of Ramana and Advaita. And then when I moved on from the past 10 years later, then I was like, okay, let me check what it’s out there. And that was the phase of my life that experimented all these techniques before I focused on another one.
Rick Archer: Yeah. And, and the first thing you got into when you were about 14 was occultism, wasn’t it? No, you went to some meditation groups, and you did some kind of meditation, and you really liked it, and then you go ahead and tell the story.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah. So, it all started with me reading Poliquin. Right. I was, my mom had his books. So, I read his books. And I got fascinated with this idea of the mystic, the occult, the esoteric. And so I started reading about anything that I could find in Portuguese, because I was born and raised in Brazil, anything I could find in my mother tongue, about religion, philosophy, occultism, Kabbalah, all of that I was reading like crazy. And many of these books, many of these paths, they recommend meditation.
So, when I got to know about a workshop that was being held in my city, which was by the Brahmakumaris group. So, I went there for a one-hour introduction to meditation. And there was maybe a 10 minutes guided meditation. And that experience was very special. And for the first time ever, in my life, I was happy and at peace, in the present moment. Nothing to run after, nothing to run away from just having started lambskin. And I was a very restless teenager, and child. So that experience was unique, something that I’ve never had before.
And when I had the experience, I say, like, okay, I’m going to continue practicing meditation every day in my life. And that was the beginning, I continued practicing meditation, I continue reading a lot. First of all, the occult, that was my interest. I had a strong fascination for the cities, the supernatural powers and that type of thing. And for the next two to two and a half years of my life, that’s how the journey went. Until little by little, I started realizing that what I’m after is not power, it’s awakening, it’s enlightenment. And when I started realizing that then my path began to shift.
There were three paths that were calling my attention at that time, which was the path of Zen Buddhism, the path of Advaita, Vedanta, and the path of Taoism. And I felt like okay, so far, I have been studying and reading and trying to practice all these things. But I feel that it’s better to dig 10 meters in a single direction than one-meter holes in 10 different directions, right. So, I felt this need to decide and choose one path and then dedicate myself fully to it. And because I got to know of a Zen master, that lived in my city, in Soto Zen, the Zen masters called Roshi. And later on, I discovered that actually, he’s quite big. Like from the Zen, from the Soto Zen tradition, he was the main one for the whole South America. He was responsible for the development of Zen in South America. And he lived in my city Portalegre in Brazil. So, when I found about him, and I started going to his Zen Center, then I felt like okay, let me choose this path, because I found a master, and it’s speaking to me right now. And I made it my path. It was interesting the day that I went to the Zen and to meet him. There was no one around. And it didn’t come to me that I had to go and specific times, I just went in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week. And he was alone there. So, I had this chance to speak with him at length. And I asked many questions. And one of the questions was, have you achieved nirvana? And he said, yes, that’s what it means to be a Roshi. That’s what it means to have received the Dharma transmission. And then I felt, wow, I’m in the presence of an enlightened being. This is great. I, so that’s how it all started for me in Zen.
Rick Archer: Cool. and from what I read of your bio, on your website, you really got into it, you know, gung-ho, you’ve always been the type to really get into this stuff. Whenever you try it out. You know, you’re not just a dilettante, which means a superficial dabbler, you just go in full headfirst and deeply into it. So you were doing lots of Zen. And you actually became assumed some kind of a leadership role or significant administrative role in that group, even at a very young age, probably under 20 still, right?
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yes, so I was 19, I shaved my head. I was I went to the monastery in France, because he has a disciple that runs the monastery in France. And I went there twice for five weeks each time in my winter break from university. And I mean, everything about me was clear that my whole life is about Zen. Right? And my parents were really freaking out. Even though I hadn’t seen anything, but they know that like, every weekend, I am in the same center, Friday night, Saturday night, anytime at home, I am doing this Zen in my room, or I am reading about Zen, or I am taking care of the admin tasks of the Zen Center that was apart from university, that was my life. Right. And my parents were freaking out.
Rick Archer: It’s been relieved. I mean, what were other people your age doing at that point? You know.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Exactly. on drugs and other things. Yeah. But they didn’t. They wanted me to be normal, right? They didn’t want me to, like, what is the Zen thing at that time, meditation was not even popular. Nowadays, if you say, I practice meditation people admire you, at that time is like, you’re kind of a weirdo. So, yeah, I was really close to that master. And one day after a retreat, after my first retreat, it came to me the idea, I felt so great. I felt so peaceful, I felt so connected. And then the idea came to me like lightning. Why don’t you make this every day of your life? Become a monk. And that idea came to me without any questions attached to it. Without any hesitations. It was just kind of like, like a flash of insight, something that is dropped into you. And I immediately accepted it said like, yes, that’s, that’s actually what I want. And then I went to talk to my Zen master, and he was not so impressed. But he just say, Okay, you finish your university, because I said, like, should I quit everything and begin now. So, no you finish a university. At the time I was doing law, and there was more four years, this in the very beginning. So, you finished your university and by them, if you still want it, then you can become a monk.
Rick Archer: And you have a girlfriend at the time?
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah, I also had a girlfriend at the time. And immediately I told her look, this desire has come in my heart. Should we break up or what should we do? And she said, no, let’s continue for now. And we’ll see what we do by time. So that’s how things developed. And I became closer and closer to the Roshi. And, like, for me, he was my link to the Zen tradition to the Buddhist tradition. You know, in Zen, there’s this strong idea of the lineage, that the Dharma has been passed from generation to generation, all the way from the Buddha to the Bodhi Dharma and then going to China and then going to Japan to doggins mg, and then going to Moriyama Roshi Portalegre. So, it’s like, wow, it’s such an honor to be his disciple. So, I lived like that for about two to three years. And then, one day when he had traveled to Japan, I got a phone call from a very close, female disciple in the Sangha. And, and she said, do you have the phone number of Roshi in Japan. I would like to talk to him. I said, yes, I have. Here’s the phone number. And then I say, I noticed that you haven’t been in the sangha anymore lately? What’s happening? Shit? Yeah, it’s not feeling comfortable about it. And then I said, is it the Roshi? I don’t know why the idea came this is the Roshi said yes. Okay, what’s, what’s the matter with the Roshi? Well, I don’t think I should tell you; I mean, you were the closest disciple and most dedicated one. So, we know you should know. But if I tell you, it’s gonna affect your life. So, I don’t know what I should do. We talked for half an hour, and I convinced her to tell me what do you think I should know? And she said, well, Roshi is my boyfriend. So, what do you mean Russia is your boyfriend? Roshi is my boyfriend, I’m his girlfriend. Just like any boyfriend and girlfriend relationship.
Rick Archer: How old is he? And how old was she?
Giovanni Dienstmann: At that time, he was probably 16. And she was probably 45.
Rick Archer: Too big of an age difference. But anyway.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yes. I said that he is a celebrated monk. How can you be his girlfriend? Anyhow, so I, I pressed her for more information. And she we were kind of close friends. And she shared everything. And so, I said, so who is paying? Like when you guys go out together? Who’s paying? Is it you or him? Sometimes it’s me. Sometimes it’s him. Okay, so the donation money that you’re giving to sustain him he’s using today to you as well. So, all of these things started coming up in my mind like this. I was just confused. I didn’t know what to make of it. And then, so we talked for like two hours. And they hang up and say like, I don’t know what to make sense of this. I’m just going to sleep and let things come clear by time. So little by little I Oh, and another important point is she said, I think I’m not the only one. And I asked Roshi specifically about this. And he said, No, you’re the only one. And I think that there’s another girl that she’s also the girlfriend. So, then the following day, I went and call the other person who is also my friend. And I said, Look, this has come to my attention. Is it true that you are the girlfriend of the Roshi? He said, No, that’s absurd, etc. Okay, we finished the call. And then I started thinking like, okay, so maybe that other person, she is making things up or misinterpreting or fantasizing, I don’t know. But then I get a phone call back and say, like, No, I’m shocked, but it’s true. I’m also the girlfriend of Roshi. So, that for me was a big, big disappointment. I was not angry him. But I was disappointed because who I thought he was. He was not, you know, if he was another type of teacher, it’s different. But if he is a Roshi, he’s a monk. So, he cannot act like that. And he can. Not only did he transgress the Devou in Buddhism, that you as a monk should not have sexual intercourse. But he also lied to both of them about them being the only ones. So that for me was the beginning of the end of Zen. And I called him after that. I actually called him in Japan. And I said, Look, person A, said that she’s your girlfriend. And I didn’t know that. I said, okay, I see. That’s all, no reactions. And I said, and she said, that you told her that she’s the only one. I said, yes, there’s only one. And, and then I said, But I talked to this other person, person B, and she said that she’s also your girlfriend. And she said that you told her she’s the only one. So, you lied. And said, no, what? Me and her speak only me and her understand. That was his answer. So well, she didn’t understand. She didn’t understand because she’s confused us. So anyhow, long story short, little by little I shared the news with the members of the Sangha. And to my great surprise, most of them even though they were surprised and a little bit disappointed, they said up but still Roshi is my master, he’s a great man, I’m going to continue following him. And for me, that’s that was absurd. Like, it doesn’t matter what level of realization he has, but his behavior does not match the behavior of a monk and actually doesn’t even match the behavior of a lay Buddhist practitioner, because you take the five vows and one of them is not to lie, and the other is not to misuse sexuality. So, yeah.
Rick Archer: There’s a larger issue here, which you know, has been discussed quite a bit on BatGap And which is related to the association of for spiritual integrity, which I helped found formula called The Association of Professional spiritual teachers. And that is the whole issue of whether there is a correlation between higher consciousness and ethical behavior. And we don’t need to spend whole interview on it, some people are tired of hearing about it. But you know, some people say there isn’t. And you could be a, you know, alcoholic womanizing scoundrel and yet be enlightened. And when I hear that sort of thing, I say, well, that’s ridiculous, because it renders the term enlightenment, utterly meaningless. And that enlightenment has ramifications for all aspects of life, including your behavior. Just to name one, but that’s a big one, that’s an important one. And you just couldn’t be behaving that way and be in any significantly developed state of realization. And to buttress that argument, you know, we could refer to so many different ancient traditions, which have all these codes of ethics, like Patanjali, and the Buddhist codes and everything else that that do it, in fact, say that there is this correlation or should be, and that ethical behavior is not only correlated with or a symptom of higher consciousness, but it’s conducive to the development of higher consciousness and that if you’re misbehaving in those various ways, then it renders the mind and physiology more impure, less pure. And that is not conducive to realization, because, you know, mental and physical, physiological purity is it’s essential in terms of honing the instrument, fine tuning the instrument, so that it can be a fit vehicle for higher realization. Anyway, that’s my little soapbox spiel on that, I imagine you agree.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah. And I think we’re gonna go into the topic of newer devices soon, and then we can we can discuss that more in depth. Okay. Yeah, so from that point onward. Later on, I traveled to Japan because I had won a scholarship to study Japanese in Japan. And when I was in Japan, I, I actually sent a letter to the Roshi. And in that letter, I gave my requisite, which is the thing that you suit, the moment that you are becoming a disciple, like, it’s a very symbolic link, its’ like the wedding ring for the tradition.
Rick Archer: It’s like a physical animal of some kind.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yes. So you wear that whenever you wear that around your neck whenever you are practicing. And that has the name of your master. And that is like the formal link with the tradition.
Rick Archer: So back to him, did you?
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yes. So, I wrote him a letter saying, among other things, I said, you I’m deeply disappointed at your behavior. You criticize a lot that Buddhism is decaying, but your behavior is part of the decaying Buddhism. And here’s my requisite. And it was a bit longer than that. But that was the gist of it. And so for me, there was a closure, there was a closure with the time of Zen. And when the path of Zen was finishing, then I was like, Okay, what, what am I going to do next? Enlightenment is still the most important thing in my life. But what is going to be my path? What is going to be my master? Who’s going to be my master? And what’s going to be my practice?
Rick Archer: Let me ask you a question. Did you ever have a moment or a brief period, where you began to doubt that there was such a thing as enlightenment because you kept being disappointed by various supposedly examples of it? Or did you always sort of put those things in perspective and realize that, well, this person is a work in progress, but they’re, but enlightenment is a real thing, and I still want it.
Giovanni Dienstmann: I think I started thinking like that I started questioning. But then I immediately went back to the teachings of the ancient masters like the Buddha or Buddha Dharma, or Rama, Krishna UKTI, Shabbat all of these great masters. And because I had read so much in my journey, I had already been exposed to different paths. That was not the all and all for me. So if I didn’t have that background and think that’s what happens with many spiritual seekers. They don’t have a they don’t have a strong background in spirituality in the study and understanding of different traditions, and the only way of spirituality that they know is of that master they are currently seeking. So if they discover something about that master, or they get disappointed with it in any way, they may just become cynical about the whole spirituality thing.
Rick Archer: Yeah. That’s a good point. I just want to throw in a point here on that, which is that I think there’s a tremendous value in knowledge as well as experience on the spiritual path. And a lot of people don’t emphasize that very much in some, in fact, I’ve had people say to me recently, well, you know, forget about all these dead masters and all these quotes and all this stuff, just go by your own experience. But if you go by your own experience, it’s really easy to get mixed up. Because how do you interpret your experience? And, you know, it’s like knowledge is knowledge safeguards the path, and it actually enables you to appreciate the experience more if you know if it’s significant. For instance, there’s an old example of, let’s say, you pick up a stone by the road, and it’s kind of shiny, and you think, oh, this is cool, and you put it in your pocket. Now, you don’t realize it, because you don’t have the knowledge. But it’s a very valuable diamond. You know, it’s quite a large, valuable diamond, but you just think of it as a Shiny Stone. And maybe we even throw it away after a while, because, yeah, you don’t know what it is. So, you know, having a clear understanding safeguards the path.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah. And comes to mind our quote of Confucius that, of course, paraphrasing, but he says, there are three means of wisdom, by self-reflection, which is the noblest by imitation, which is the easiest, and by experience, which is the most bitter. So, you can throw away all the knowledge, you can throw away all the experiments that other people have already done in for centuries, before you and they have written down their conclusions and their insights, you can throw all of that away and start from zero based on your own insight and your own heart and your intuition. And you will progress. But it’s going to be slow, and it’s going to be bitter. And if you can start it’s like a scientist, the scientist doesn’t start science from zero, you know, like everything that was already learned and discover before him. That’s the ground in which he stands.
Rick Archer: Yeah, Sir Isaac Newton said, I stand on the shoulders of giants. And, and science works by consensus, you know, scientists doesn’t just say, Okay, here’s my idea. All the other if he does, he presents something all the other scientists jump on it and say, okay, let’s we’ll test it, you know, and they poke holes in it, and maybe they find out more, but there’s this sort of group effort that builds the body of scientific knowledge, and also safeguards that to use the word safeguard, again, safeguards it from misinterpretation and misunderstanding and false conclusions.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah, and I know what you mean, because I have heard that type of argument a lot. A lot of people in the spiritual path, they kind of shun reading and studying, accepting Tibetan Buddhism, in Tibetan Buddhism, that is a huge part of the tradition. But if you think deeply, that doesn’t make much sense, because the ancient masters that they hide their masters, they’re ones that have achieved, that they are at the end of the path that you’re walking, like they have achieved that you want to achieve. They some of them wrote books. Right? So, if that was useless, why would have written books?
Rick Archer: Yeah. And it might be argued that, well, you know, they wrote in an ancient age where we don’t have all the understanding that we have in this contemporary age. But, you know, there’s a saying that which is closest to truth last longest and the, the stuff they were writing about is truth, you know, capital T, and therefore, it should be timeless. And obviously, there could be issues with distortions as things are translated and re-translated and passed down.
Sometimes just orally for a long time, before they’re even written there. There’s that kind of issue. And also, this person speaks from their level of consciousness, and listeners can only hear from their level of consciousness, so translators might gobble it up. But nonetheless, there are a lot of gems, and these ancient traditions, if we, you know, just I don’t want to talk too much, but I just want to add that it’s good to have a sort of a, not a skeptical attitude, but a questioning attitude. The Buddha said this, too. He said, don’t just accept something because I’d said it, or, you know, go by your own understanding your own experience, but he didn’t say, don’t listen to me. You know, so with all these books in which we don’t need to sort of throw the baby out the bathwater, and say they’re all just mythical nonsense, nor should we say, oh, it’s absolute gospel truth, if it said that, you know, Hanuman, the monkey flew to the Himalayas, from Sri Lanka and brought a mountain back and we don’t necessarily have to accept that that actually literally happened. Maybe it did but questionable. But there are teachings and gems sprinkled throughout these books that can be very valuable.
Giovanni Dienstmann: And sometimes we can be in front of a master and sit in satsang. But sometimes we can’t because the master is far away or the master has died a long time ago. And then getting a book with the teachings of the master is in really reading it and going deeper into it with an open heart. That is the second-best thing to it’s a form of satsang. You know where you can get that energy that when you read, I am that from Nisargadatta Maharaj, or you read the works of Ramana. I have never met any of the two, but it’s almost as if you’re sitting their presence there, the energy comes through the words.
Rick Archer: Good. Okay. And just one more point here. And I’ll continue on. And that is that, you know, we have different faculties. And you know, experiential realization is not really, it’s an exercise of our intellectual faculty. It’s you know, it’s more, not It’s not conceptual. But we also have the intellectual faculty, which deals with concepts, we have heart which deals with feelings. And there’s no reason why all these different faculties shouldn’t be employed in the process of spiritual evolution and shouldn’t be developed as we go along to be more and more effective and enabling us to, you know, progress.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah. So typically, we speak up the four paths, which is the path of jnana, the intellect, the path of Raja, meditation, path of bhakti devotion, and the path of karma, which is action. And then usually, they say, the path of Tantra, it’s more like to tap the path of energy. So, people who have a people who are more heart people, they will feel more attracted to the path of bhakti devotion, right? People who are more heady, they will feel more attracted to the path of jnana. But at the same time, are like with Swami Shivananda used to say that we need to develop the yoga of head, heart enhance, something like that. So, integrating all of these aspects, because as a human being, we have to act as a human being we think, and there are illusions in our thoughts in our thoughts. So, reading the books, and reflecting the teachings help us to get rid of those illusions. And we also have a heart we also feel so we need to purify our hearts as well.
Rick Archer: Yeah, and some people might be more predominant in one or another of those things. But no one is exclusively one of those things to the exclusion of all the others.
Giovanni Dienstmann: And the interesting thing is, by my own nature, I’ve always been more into the jnana yoga path, the path of the intellect. And in several sources, I’ve seen master saying that the jnana yoga path is the hardest one, and it’s only for most advanced seekers. And me my own arrogance is as a teenager, or in my early 20s. I say like, yes, that’s the one for me.
Rick Archer: Yeah, cuz I’m cool.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah, especially with this. And, you know, the more I walk the path, the more I see, like, okay, there’s, I’m not really ready for that path. Even though I have walked a path for a decade, and I’ve had an experience of awakening, which has been a point of no return for me, still, I see that I may need another lifetime of purification of the mind and making myself sattvic and developing other qualities that other paths, emphasize more, before I can really get that path and go into the end.
Rick Archer: That’s interesting, you should say that, I believe chakra said something of that nature that Yana yoga is for kind of a small percentage of people and that these other paths are conducive to various aspects of purification to ready one, two, for the Yana yoga path, if that is going to be one’s ultimate, ultimate path, which it may not necessarily have to be for everyone. Yeah.
Giovanni Dienstmann: So after I left Zen, I kind of fell in love with the teachings of Brahma, which I had read in the past. And that became my, my path for the next 10 years, the path of Advaita. And really having Ramana Maharshi as, as my guru as my main kind of source of truth. And then I also read and got inspired by Nisargadatta, Maharaj, Papaji, and Mooji. But just to speak to what you just said, at that time in my life, when it was just the path of Jnana yoga, just the path of self-inquiry. I’d, I felt a technique to be very, very effective technique of through the question of who am I removing the attention from everything that is external, including thoughts, feelings, memories, all of that is external to the pure sense of I am. I found it very helpful and very powerful.
Rick Archer: You were able to do that easily?
Giovanni Dienstmann: I wouldn’t say that I was able to do that easily. But even in the beginning of my path, I was having better results with that then with three years of Zen.
Rick Archer: Okay. Was it easy for you to switch from Zen practice to this new one? Or did you find yourself falling back into the habit of Zen meditation the way you had been doing it?
Giovanni Dienstmann: It was, it didn’t happen like this. It happens. And slowly, so I was doing meditation twice a day at that time. So I said, Okay, I’m going to be doing Zen at night. And I’m going to be doing self-inquiry in the morning. And little by little by little doesn’t started disappearing and self-inquiry dominated. But at that time in my life, that’s self-inquiry, and Advaita. And surfing and yoga was the main thing. I was very disconnected from the body from emotions. And that had an impact in my relationship with my life, for instance in other areas of my life.
Rick Archer: As a result of Zen?
No as a result of Advaita.
Rick Archer: Oh, that made you disconnected. Okay.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah. because whenever an emotion arises, if you ask who is the one feeling this emotion, and then you drop the emotion and you dwell in the pure consciousness that is emotionless, you know. So by time, I realized that that type of path, if you want to go really deep and hardcore as I was going, it’s easier if you are alone, or reductions. And in the past, only people who were southern monks were following that path. And people who were in the world, they were falling paths that were a little bit easier to integrate to a more active life. And that took me 10 years to realize that I don’t say that people in the world should not follow the path of Advaita, ordinary yoga at all. It’s it is very powerful. And if you have that inclination, first you should absolutely follow it. But at the same time, you need to bring in other practices that are going to feel the gaps in you need to know that this type of practice in this type of teaching was created by monks for monks in a way, in the past, only monks were following it. So you’re going to have to translate that into your daily life, you’re going to have to, to bridge that gap, rather than trying to apply it literally to every situation.
Rick Archer: Okay, good. Incidentally, I wanted to just mention that those who are listening live, I forgot to say this in the beginning. There’s if you want to ask a question, at any point, there is a form at the bottom of the upcoming interviews page on batgap.com. And if you submit your question through there, it’ll come to me and I can ask it. Okay, so you did the Advaita for about 10 years. I think you mentioned that. Lakshmana Swamy was one of your teachers with his co living Swami and the tradition of Rama?
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yes. So, Lakshmana Swamy, I think he’s still alive. He was 25, when Ramana Maharshi was in his last year of life. And there is a book called no mind, I am the self by David Godman, who has been inertial. And I read that book. And I felt like well, this is a real guru, a real jnani. There’s no doubt about it for me, and he’s alive. And there’s a chance that I can meet him in India. And in the teachings of Ramana, he speaks a lot about the guru. And while many times it says that the Guru is the self, the real guru is the self. He also says that if you can be in the presence of a physical guru, that is very helpful. Right. So, I felt like okay, my only chance, the only one that I know that is alive in this lineage is Lakshmana, Swamy. And at that time, it was December of 2006. And it was, he was already right something. And I had just graduated from university, I had to actually beg them to graduate me a month before everyone else so that I could be there for the darshan. And I was there. There were about 30 to 40 people, and there was a lot of Shakti, a lot of energy and peace in the environment.
Rick Archer: And he was at around Asheville.
Giovanni Dienstmann: No that is, there’s about three blocks away from Ramana ashram, he has his own, it’s in his house, basically, he has a big garden. And that’s where the darshan is held. And to give a bit of context, in the lineage of Ramana. And also, much before he made, it says that initiation, which is called diksha, can happen through word through touch or through Darshan to the sight. And diksha is not, victory is something that for many Westerners may be a bit hard to understand it’s a transfer of energy. It’s a transfer of grace, that actually empowers you to be able to follow the path and to, to do the technique effectively. So, I wanted the darshan of Lakshmana Swami to, to be connected to the path more deeply to get that grace and that Shakti part that would allow me to practice self-inquiry. So, I was there in his darshan, and I was sitting in the fifth row, but I could barely hear him because he speaks such a low tone of voice but even if I had heard just a sentence, it was his presence was so powerful that something’s happening inside of you just being his presence. And I’ve met many teachers, a couple of gurus, but I’ve, I’ve never felt that with anyone else. It’s, it’s quite extraordinary. And one of the sentences, he says, is, surrender is the easiest path. And effort is needed, but grace is also needed. And the grace is more. I think he said something like Grace is more predominant factor. He said, surrender to the Lord within, surrender to the self within the heart. And when he said that, I, on an act of complete surrender, I did exactly that I, by the power of His grace, I looked inside, and I surrender the ego in the heart. And something happened now, there was it’s hard for me to explain what happened. But there was the first point of non-return my life, in my path. To practice presence of the Guru has made the ego dive into the heart, into the self. And, of course, it came back. But it was not the same. It was lighter, it was more transparent. And there was a there was a kind of a grace, helping you pushing me in the path. So, I really consider that an initiation into Advaita. That’s, that’s how I felt. So that was, after that I could see him a few times because he would go inside a car every morning and go around or natural, doing the circumambulation, which is kind of a sacred practice, whereby he couldn’t walk so by car. So, I would see him and it was always very powerful to be with to be in his presence, and sometimes our eyes would meet. So that was a very powerful event in my path.
Rick Archer: Okay, and then I have a list of the teachers you’ve studied with here, and the next one that comes up is Shivarudra Balayogi who’s been on that, yeah.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah. So, before that was Mooji.
Before she ever wanted to.
Yes, okay. Well, Shivarudra Balayogi, I got to know of him in 2005, the same year that I was going into Advaita. And we exchanged a couple of emails, which for me is strange, like a Yogi’s answering an email to random visits on the website. But I felt like okay, this man is also self-realized. And I felt like I could take him as a guru, but he self-realized more in the path of Raja Yoga like really, really hardcore tapas meditation, multiple hours a day, etc. And I was, yeah, I was attracted more to the path of yoga of self-inquiry. So he was always someone that was in the back of my mind that I admired as a teacher and had some connection, but for the next 10 years after that, until I met him again, it was mostly the path of Advaita.
Rick Archer: Okay, and then who was Nikhil Ganesh Maremanda, you mentioned that here?
Giovanni Dienstmann: Oh, yeah, that comes much after.
Rick Archer: Okay, how are we getting them? Do you just keep telling your story? I won’t try to guide you along. Get away from your story into all kinds of specific considerations and topics as we go along here, too. Oh, yeah. Okay, go ahead.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah, so I had read everything of Ramana that could get my hands into like, it’d be 30 books. So, I really felt I understood how Ramana is teaching and what he is about. And then when I went to Tiruvannamalai, that year to meet Lakshmana Swami. Then after that, I also walked around the other. There are many Satsang teachers around I think called Rennes Raman and there are like, many of them. I don’t even remember their names, but I was going to their satsangs to kind of check it out. And I was like, wow, this is it sounds like Advaita but this is not really advaita. And that was my first introduction to the world of Neo Advaita. Um, yeah, so I continue going to the other satsangs just want going once to each teacher was enough for me just to really have a feel of like, how are people teaching in this path? What are they? What are they recommending? What are they emphasizing? What are they missing? Just as an exercise to develop my own discernment into the teachings. And later on, I realized that this is like really popular. It’s the most it’s the most common way that Advaita Vedanta is being taught is through the lens of Neo Advaita. And a lot of that is because of a great master called Papaji. Papaji was a disciple of Rama, and he attained enlightenment through trauma. And he was very hardcore, very true in my own reading, but his way of teaching was emphasizing non-effort, it seems to me that his whole teaching was optimize for getting a person to where they are, to that first experience of the Self as quickly as possible. And for that, it’s not going to be a decade of meditation, that’s going to do it.
It’s like, it’s another type of teaching and pointing. And he emphasized a lot non-effort, letting go of everything, dropping everything, and just being quiet, here and now. And if you’re able to do that, in the presence of the guru, with the Guru’s grace, they’re kind of helping you, then you may have an experience of the Self. But then what happens is from that point, many people think that that’s it, because they don’t have that background, that spiritual study that spiritual background, they haven’t really studied the teachings of Ramana. And they think that that’s it, and then they become certain teachers. And that’s how Neo Advaita happens.
Rick Archer: You have a good article on your site about Neo Advaita. It’s, I’ve read Timothy Conway, his whole article, and you quote that Timothy has been on that gap a couple of times, but your article lays it out very nicely. I already sent it to somebody who told me they didn’t know the difference between Advaita and Neo Advaita. And she found it very helpful. But anyway, let’s talk a little bit about what Neo Advaita is, and how you came to the conclusion that maybe it’s not what Advaita is cracked up this supposed to be?
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah. So Ramana said, a couple of things that helps us to understand and navigate this world of spirituality. One of them he said is, there is there is an experience of liberation that many attain, and very few go beyond. I’m paraphrasing from memory. So, words maybe slightly different, but the important it is exactly this, that as you as you practice self-inquiry, as you are on the path, you may have an experience of yourself. And this experience may be temporary, or in some level, it may be a point of no return in some aspects. But it’s very easy to get stuck there and to feel that this is it. And from now on, I just have to continue being this and whatever needs to happen is going to happen. And my actions can only be the actions of God or they must be always right, because they come from the self and there’s only the self. So, that type of thinking starts coming. Another thing that Ramana says is in the presence of the master Samadhi can occur, but for it to be fully integrated, further effort is required. So Ramana and I spoke very clearly about the need of effort. He said as long as there are vasanas, which are or desires or fears or prejudices are thought patterns that are automatic and unconscious. As long as these things exist. You still need further effort to abide and dissolve into self.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I wrote down several quotes from your book or copy them. Here’s one. Even though the self is the only reality, there’s a clear instruction that spiritual practice is essential. Ramana continuous, the emphasis emphasize that only a right mind will be able to easily find liberation. For all other seekers. A long period of drying up through purposeful spiritual practice was needed according to Ramana and here’s one from Nisargadatta there are so many who take the dawn for the noon a momentary experience for full realization and destroy even the little they gained by excess of pride, humility in silence are essential for a sadhaka seeker. However advanced only a fully ripened Yani can allow himself complete spontaneity.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah, I like that quote to be pasted on the wall of Satsang house.
Rick Archer: Yeah.
Giovanni Dienstmann: So that is Neo Advaita. New Advaita is mistaking a temporary realization for the full realization. It ignores a lot of the key elements of the teachings that has ever been there in the Advaita. One of them is the idea of brightness of mind. So Ramana used to say that there are three classes of students or seekers. They’re ones that they are like dry wood, so ones that are like wet wood. ones are like dry wood, and others are like gunpowder. So, the ones that are like wet wood, they need a lot of practice and drying up, as it says in the quote, so they are ready for the truth. The ones that are like dry wood, they last practice their clothes, and the ones that are like gunpowder, they come in the presence of a master, and they just achieve the final, irreversible, ultimate realization. And the trick is, most people think that they are level two or level three. Right? But most likely, they’re not. I mean, the level three years people like Papaji, people like Morgana that came in the presence of Ramana and achieved enlightenment, you can say that even people like Lakshmana Swami, she was probably in category too, like he was a dry word, because he did decades of pranayama, in Joppa, practicing mantra by himself for years, before he went to them to the Ramana and had the awakening. So, what I found in my own journey is that the more I study, the teachings, the masters the tradition, the more I see how long this path is, and how far away in a way full realization is. So that you really need to be humble in union, you really need to follow the path and the teachings and the practices that you need. Right now, to take the next step in your life. It may be self-inquiry, it may be dealing with your anger, may be reviewing some negative self-beliefs, it may be learning to concentrate the mind through practicing mantra, or, or Trataka, or anything. But we need to have a greater clarity over what the path really is. And this is a multi-life project. It’s for most people, it’s a multi life project. And you may be blessed with an experience of awakening quite early on. And that is a blessing. And that’s the beginning of the journey. It’s not the end.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I’m totally in agreement with you. Not everyone is, as you know, and I think some of the objections people bring up to this type of talk is, you know, one is that well, spiritual practice only somehow reifies or increases the sense of a practicer. So, it makes the ego even more, you know, solid, because there’s a you who was doing something, and the whole point is to sort of get to transcend the notion of you that does things. So how would you respond to that particular point?
Giovanni Dienstmann: Well, Ramana understood that point quite well. He said it very well. Every practice enforces a sense of ego, because it is practiced by the ego by the eye, the individual eye. But he Ramana, who also understood that, said that practice is essential.
Rick Archer: So why would he say that if it reinforces the sense of an eye?
Giovanni Dienstmann: Well, he also said that he also said that it’s useless to just remain inactive in regard to the path of realization, and active in regard to everything else in your life. If you say like, okay, doing a practice just reinforces the ego, so I’m not going to do it. But you’re doing all sorts of other things in your life that are also coming from the ego. There’s a metaphor of using a piece of stick to move all the other stick into the fire. And then when all the wood is in the fire, then you throw that, that one last. But if you throw that one, before everything’s on fire, then you have no means to burn all the other wood. The path is many times described as crossing a river, from samsara to Nirvana. Right, from ego to self, from individuality to consciousness. But to cross this river, you need a boat. And if in the middle of the journey, you say, like, hey, no one in the other side of the river has a boat. And I’m going to have to give up this boat anyhow. So let me give it up. Now. If you do that, you’re left with no other means to move forward. You’re probably going to drown.
Rick Archer: Yeah, one second here. Okay, so yeah, that’s a good metaphor. Rama was also fond of the saying it takes a thorn to remove a thorn. You know, like ultimately a practice might not make sense because of the reasons people bring raised. Yeah, you know, there is no practice or you’re only going to reinforce a sense of a practice or, yeah, but a certain stage, you know, that might be just what you need. I mean, sometimes even people accuse practice of being like a crutch, but if you have a broken leg, you actually Could use a crutch, how it helps you until the leg heals. And then you can throw the crutch away.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah, otherwise it might never heal.
Rick Archer: Yeah.
I said that you cannot leave a mess and go beyond.
Rick Archer: Interesting point.
Can I leave a mess behind and go beyond? Right? it’s almost impossible to go from a very Temasek ego from a very kind of grass exteriorized materialized ego to no ego. You might be able to do that jump occasionally for a short period of time, but your psyche or you don’t have the structure to just stay there. You’re going to be pulled back.
Rick Archer: Yeah. And you’ve heard this the term spiritual bypassing, I’m sure.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah, so that, what’s happened. They have that experience, okay. And then they say, Well, this seems more true than then all that mass that I’m leaving behind. Right? So I’m going to affirm this, I’m going to deny that. So spiritual bypassing is based on denying where you are not being honest with yourself, not seeing things clearly. You. In Zen, they have this saying, which is attachment to emptiness, which is also known as the Zen sickness. Right? And it’s very hard once you that’s why they spoke against it, because it’s very hard once you get that experience, like some people who just feel like, say, no, no, this is it. I am the self. There’s only the self, I’ve seen it. So, everything else must only be an illusion. So why should I work to change any of that? It doesn’t make any difference to the self? Yeah, and it doesn’t make any difference to the self. But it makes a difference to the self in manifestation, which is who you are right now, whether you recognize it or not, you’re the self-manifestation.
Rick Archer: Yeah, there’s another saying I think it’s the Chando goo parshad. It says integrated into great darkness go those who worship ignorance into even greater darkness, as it were ago, those who worship knowledge. And I think what that means is that, you know, this sort of fixation on the, the absolute view to the exclusion of relative considerations, such as practices, or ethics, or any of that other stuff can get you in the hot water.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah. And they also say that a truth misunderstood causes much harm. And the greater the highest, the higher the truth that is misunderstood, the higher is the damage. And maybe that’s why in the past, if you wanted to learn Advaita, you couldn’t buy a book in the bookstore and on doesn’t work like that, you would have to serve a master for 12 years. And in those 12 years is not teaching your advisor is teaching you. Humility is teaching you to let go of the ego is teaching you the precepts, how to learn how to be in the world. And he’s teaching you more basic practices such as pranayama, Japa, etc. And at the end of 12 years of preparation of self-purification, if you are deemed worthy, He will teach you the ultimate truth. And that truth will land on a very different mind than the mind that it would land on 12 years ago.
Rick Archer: Yeah. If anybody’s listening to this, and they disagree with the things that we’re saying, go ahead and send in a question. And we’ll, I’ll ask it, because, I mean, Giovanni and I are pretty much, you know, birds of a feather here. But, you know, we’re open to hearing reasonable objections to what we’re saying. You know, and you can see how people kind of don’t like this line of talk, because it sounds like a lot of work, I’ve got to spend 12 years doing what you know, and, and before I reached, and there’s a sort of a resonance effect, I think, that takes place when you read a lot of Ramadan or other, you know, beautiful spiritual books, you kind of entrain you know, that word, you sort of tune in to what it’s saying. And it actually does sort of lift you to a higher state, as you’re, as you’re reading that and you can, if you read enough of it, you can actually come to feel that you’ve got it, you know, I mean, it’s the world is an illusion, I am that and, you know, there is no person and there is no free will and all these kinds of concepts, you kind of get them ingrained into your psychology. But I have a feeling that in most cases, it’s a far cry from what the experience could be if one were really living that and not mistaking an intellectual understanding of it for the living of it.
Giovanni Dienstmann: And it can be really hard to make that shift. Because as we can learn from the way Papaji teaches, ignoring all the effort, ignoring all the preparation, ignoring the ego in the mass, and just trying to be here. And now letting go of everything and keeping quiet. That can lead to an experience that is extraordinary. It’s a milestone in spiritual life that is very significant. But then moving forward to that it’s not doing the same thing again and again and again and again, there is going to help you. Okay, now you have seen it, you have you have seen the truth, okay? Now, there’s still a gap between how you’re functioning as, or there’s a gap between consciousness functioning as the ego Giovanni or the ego record, the ego, whatever, and the pure consciousness, there’s a gap. And I may be wrong, but I don’t think that gap is going to be crossed by just going again and again and again, trying to go again and again and again to that experience, or maybe it will, but to require a very specific type of mind that is very strong and is able to hold on to that and you know, Ramana said that self-inquiry begins, when you hold on to the self, and you are beyond all thoughts. begins. Right? So, most people would say, like, okay, I have done very little self-inquiry then. So, if self-inquiry only begins, then then we really need to be humble about what we’re doing. We are in the preparation; we are in the path of purification of the mind. And it’s very clear Ramana also said that only a sattvic mind, a pure mind can grasp the truth. So, if your mind is not sattvic, forget in your in your head an experience of the truth, then your path now should be to make the mind sattvic.
Rick Archer: Yeah, you know, I think, in a way, some people might be scared off by the word effort. Because the thought of having to sit for an hour or two a day, doing something effortful doesn’t sound very appealing, and having to do that for years on end before you get anywhere. My own experience, and I think yours might be similar, was that from day one, the experience was so enjoyable. That effort really is not a relevant word. In fact, what I learned to practice actually didn’t involve effort. And that was specifically instructed not to use effort, but to just sort of be very natural and effortless with it. But it was so gratifying from day one that and I was not a very discipline person, I had dropped out of high school and everything and got arrested a couple times. But you know, it was easy for me to stick with because it was so enjoyable. It was self-motivating. It was it was like you know, eating a delicious piece of food or something you want to keep eating it because it’s so good.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah. So that is a very important point, a very important shift. Because if you can learn to enjoy your practice, then you will continue doing it. Yeah, it’s deeply ingrained in our system and our branding and our biology that we will avoid pain and will seek pleasure. So, if you can find pleasure in your practice, if you can find an immediate benefit in your practice, not the enlightenment that may happen several nights we’re not right, but some immediate benefit and enjoyment, then you will continue to practice. They need to not be a struggle. It’s just like, yeah, it’s just part of my life. The more I do this, the better I feel. So why would I not do it?
Rick Archer: Yeah, exactly. And also, when you say enjoyment, you know, some, if we compare it to sensory enjoyment, there are a lot of sensory things that you can enjoy. But you get sick of them after a while. But the kind of enjoyment we’re talking about here is not like that. It doesn’t get you disgusted through repeated experience, it actually becomes more and more charming.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah. And but most people will say, look, a spiritual practice. Yeah, I kind of feel calm and centered after that. But it’s not really enjoyable. A lot of the times feels like work. Looking at my shadows and working through all of this mess feels like a lot of work. But if you understand that this is the best thing that you can do for yourself. Right now. Not because maybe in the future, you may have awakening. But if you feel that right now, the more you follow these teachings, the better you live, then you will continue even though sometimes may be difficult, and painful.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Well, that’s good to emphasize too. Because if we make it sound too rosy, then it’s not realistic. Because there’s you mentioned purification, if purification is going to occur, there’s going to have to be release of impurities, and release of impurities can be rather than an unpleasant process while we’re going through it.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah, and in some paths, like the path of bhakti yoga, which is the path of devotion. The secret kind of falls in love with a version of the Divine, right. Okay, you’re back now continue. So, the secret kind of falls in love with a version of the Divine is, in India at least usually has a name in a form. That is just like an icon. It’s not that God is the name and form that name and form is something that used to focus the mind and the feeling towards God by but the interesting thing about this path, which is not a natural path for my own inclinations, but a benefit of it is that because you’re falling in love with a version of the Divine, there is a sweetness to it. Right? So, it’s kind of, there’s an enjoyment to it, the more you love, and are devoted to the divine in a form, the more you feel that enjoyment, right. So that is something to be said, for the bhakti path that can make this transition easier.
Rick Archer: Yeah, there’s a principle here, which I think might apply to any path, which is that all beings have a natural tendency to want to seek a field of greater happiness. You know, whether it’s a dog chewing on a bone, or, you know, person falling in love, or, you know, for sitting and talking, and some beautiful music comes on our attention effortlessly shifts to it, there’s just this natural innate drive that all beings have to seek a field of greater happiness. And the thing we’re talking about here, is traditionally described as being the greatest happiness, you know, bliss, Ananda, you know, happiness beyond any relative sensory experience. And so, any step in the direction of that, if it’s a genuine step, if we’re really moving in the direction of that should result in some greater happiness. And that’s, in a way, that’s the litmus test for whether it’s a valid step or not. And, and so if it does, then as you as you were just saying, it’s self-reinforcing, you know, we just sort of naturally get into the groove of continuing to take steps in that direction, because it pays off as we do.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah, and if you think about it lately, meditation has become quite popular and quite mainstream. And meditation is only one of the several practices in the spiritual path. I even wrote an article, the 76 benefits of meditation. So, they’re saying their scientific research proving that meditation is good for all sorts of things. Oh, yeah. So, if you meditate there, you spend the rest of your life meditating, and you’ll never achieve any experience of awakening. Okay, let’s say worst case scenario, still, you have lived much better, then you can stay to spend that half an hour or one hour a day, watching Netflix.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I mean, chances are, it may lower your blood pressure and improve your brainwave coherence and do all kinds of things, you know, that are good for you. I mean, you know, these days, stress is a big deal. And, and people and depression is a big deal. I mean, most of people in the United States are on some form of antidepressant. And so even if it were only these mundane benefits, as you just said, it’s a great thing to add to your life.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah, and then looking at enlightenment as a north, right, not as a hard goal, not as something that I have to achieve, but a north.
Rick Archer: A north, what do you mean by that.
Giovanni Dienstmann: It’s where I’m pointing to, it’s where I’m walking towards, I see it as my direction. Yeah, it’s my direction in life. It’s not something that I expect to arrive at any time soon. It’s just wearing walking towards. And then if you have that attitude, it’s much less likely that you will feel disappointed at how much work there is to do, and how much far away you are from that ideal. Because no, it’s just the direction I’m walking towards. And then if I can enjoy my path, as I’m going and if I can see benefits in other areas of my life, and if part of me can sometimes even enjoy the practice, then why not? Is there anything better to do?
Rick Archer: Yeah. He sent me a bunch of points. And I want to start going through them because these are interesting. And each one of them is a springboard to something we can talk about. But we’ve already talked about a couple of them with regard to your journey, but there was also an important stage in your journey with Mooji. You’ve had an awakening with Mooji. So, you want to talk about that a little bit.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Okay, so, at that time, it was a time in my journey was I was practicing self-inquiry compulsively. It was always there for me. In any thought, any emotion I would always kind of not any thought is a bit exaggerated, but any emotion that with any emotion that would arise I would immediately ask who is the one perceiving this and kind of the solid back into the self and doing that multiple.
Rick Archer: 24 hours a day?
Giovanni Dienstmann: For emotions, yes.
Rick Archer: then it kind of divide your mind to do that?
Giovanni Dienstmann: Well, by nature, I’m not a very emotional person. So, they’re not that many emotions. But emotion is something that is very close to the ego, it’s something that is very ingrained in the ego. So, for trivial thoughts, I wouldn’t bother so much. But when an emotion arises, then I would ask that question. And then, of course, also in my one hour, a day that I’m only doing that. And then I was also watching Mooji, satsangs, at that time, like maybe two hours a day, so I was really doing as much as I can, to dive into that truth and to experience that. And then what happened is, in February 2010, I was in Nirvana like, and at that time Mooji would use to walk around the mountain with a small group of devotees early in the morning. And after a walk, we would sit in a chai shop, and there was a Spontaneous Satsang that will occur. Maybe we were like, 20 people. And in one of those days. Before that, let me just come back a little bit and say, I also had some experiences when I was meditating as if like, I’m going to die, I’m going to completely disappear. Because that’s what self-inquiry is doing. Right? It’s a sad one calls it an ego suicide. Right? It’s super, when you actually are close to that there is this fear that arises. And by nature, I’m not a fearful person, but this fear arose in the middle of meditation. And then I thought, I have lived as an ego as an individual for many lifetimes, like all of us, like, I want to go forward with this. And if it’s going to be the disappearance of me, let it be, I’m not going to be afraid to let it happen. And I feel that releasing that fear like that, it never came back anymore. That kind of prepared the ground. So, in 2010, I was having that I was in Tiru, and I was having that walk with Mooji. And then we sat in a chai shop. And then we were all quiet. And it started a satsang by saying, you are the absolute awareness. And there is a sentence that is a very Advaita sentence. It’s a sentence that Mooji had said, multiple times, maybe being every satsang. in one form or another, he says that. But that time, that sentence went through me completely. And it was as if the if consciousness had blinked, and the whole universe had blinked out of existence. In for an instant, there was only the self-aware. And then it blinked back into existence. And I was like, oh, I didn’t know what had happened. This just silence was something very different from what I had ever experienced. Something had dropped. Something had dropped, they didn’t know what it was. And then I was quiet, very quiet inside. And went home, went to the morning, satsang. In the afternoon, I had an interview with Mooji. Because Mooji had asked me a few days ago, he had mentioned kind of casually like I would like to be interviewed by someone that asks really good spiritual questions all the time. He hadn’t been interviewed by you yet. But and I said, okay, would you feel like I will come up with some questions that can be helpful for the great majority of seekers in our interview. I said, okay, I would love that. So, I had prepared those questions, like beforehand. And that afternoon, was the day that I had to ask to have that interview with Mooji. So, we went out for that interview, and I was already in that altered state. And there were maybe five or six students around which me another five or six, very small. And as I’m going through the questions and asking the questions, kind of on behalf of everyone that could be watching that interview. At a certain point, Mooji looked at me and said, all these questions are good, but they are not your questions. I’m not being saying I am not being pulled to answer powerfully because they are not your questions. I said he has much of you asked me to ask on the behalf of everyone said no, but I will say I need someone that comes to me and he’s powerfully wanting to be liberated.
Giovanni Dienstmann: And then at that time in my mind, the thought came Okay, let me try to do this one more time. And with all my being I kind of tried to reawaken that feeling like, okay, I want to be liberated. That’s all I want. 100% liberate me now. And then as I was trying to do that, I realized that I couldn’t, it didn’t make any sense. It would be to create a fake sense of I, in order to be a Seeker for that I to then be dissolved.
Rick Archer: So, you’ve already kind of moved on with from this intense seeker energy, and you didn’t want to whip it up again.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah, I tried. But it just wasn’t, wasn’t happening, that psychological structure wasn’t there anymore. So I just couldn’t, I couldn’t play that role from Mooji. I feel that something got triggered. Like maybe he felt that and he responded to that. And soon the satsang finished, and after the cameras were off, we’re all kind of sitting quiet. silence, and then Mooji begin to speak. And at that time, I had already watched dozens of Satsang with Mooji, and been in dozens of settings of Mooji. But I had never seen him speak the way he was speaking. At the end of that Satsang, with the cameras off. It was coming from a different place. And there was a dense silence in the room. And he continued speaking like that, for maybe 20 to 30 minutes. It’s like he was channeling the absolute. That’s the feeling I had. And after he left, like the five of us, we just continued there in silence. And then a couple of people came to me and said, thank you for these questions I’ve never seen Mooji like that? I’ve never seen Mooji like that either. Unfortunately, the cameras were off at a time. But that was the day that the big shift happened in me. And I had no idea what had happened. And I had no desire to understand it. Over the next few days, I was just spending hours and hours in my room, laying down on my bed, staring at the wall, doing nothing, just kind of being empty and silent. And just going out for satsang and for meals basically. And I went to Mooji. And I said what’s happening? I mean the state and just hours and hours in nothingness looking at the walls. And he said, and I am busy talking to people and running satsangs Can we swap bodies?
Rick Archer: That’s pretty good.
Giovanni Dienstmann: So, that was it. That was there was a sense of I knew that something had shifted. And I had no idea what it was. And I had no desire to understand it. But in the next month in my life, and the next years, I was just kind of marinating into that, and allowing that to reveal itself. And intuitively, I know that this is not the end, this is a powerful milestone, but it’s not the end. So, I continue doing my self-inquiry. I just had no more inclination to be a seeker or even to read anything about spirituality. And it continued like that for about four years. And that was the same time that I moved to Australia. So, it was good that I was not in that spiritual thirst anymore, because I needed my energy to make things work on the external world with the migration, new career, etc.
Rick Archer: What is your career outside of meditation stuff?
Well, so at that time, when I moved to Australia, I started becoming a programmer. I taught myself programming and made a job as I made a life as a programmer for five years here before I didn’t quit the job during this time now.
Rick Archer: okay, good. So, in light of your beautiful experience of Mooji, what do you make of what’s going on these days with Mooji?
Giovanni Dienstmann: So, I saw that article. I didn’t read it line by line, but I skimmed through that article came out about a month or two ago. And I don’t know if those facts are true, if those things that they say are true about his involvement with other women, etc. So, I cannot judge him and I don’t wish to judge him in any way. The only thing I can do is share my own discernment about this. And I think every seeker needs to develop their own discernment in the path. And that discernment is about themselves, but it’s also about the teachings and the teachers. So that they can find it every moment what really speaks to them. And my discernment was empowered by the framework of the Buddha of the four levels of awakening or enlightenment, right. So, in level one, there is the experience of non-self, right there is a drop of the identity, there’s just level one. In Level two, then the desire and fear and aversion, they greatly diminish. In Level Three, they are overcome. And then in level four, all forms of desire, pride, attachment, etc., everything is dropped. So, looking at this framework, I understood that what had happened for me, was level one. And I later spoke about this experience with a couple of Buddhist teachers that have been in this in your show, by the way. And they said, like, yeah, that sounds like level one. So, I said, okay, so if what happened to me is level one, and what’s, where is Mooji? In the scale, I felt like, from my understanding of the Buddhist teachings, and Romanus teachings, I feel that he’s in level two. So, in level two, desire, fear and aversion are greatly diminished, but they haven’t disappeared. And if they haven’t disappeared, there is chance that moved by these poisons of mind, the seeker and he’s still a seeker at that stage, the seeker is bound to do certain things that are not in there are not conducive to his further growth and to the growth of the Sangha, he has already taken a teaching role. So, I don’t know exactly what happened in the Sangha. I don’t know what Mooji did. It will not break my worldview, if all those things were true. I mean, it would break my worldview, if those things are true about Rama, or about Buddha. But about Mooji, seeing him within this larger spectrum, it will turn and break my worldview. So, I think those things might be true. And I think Mooji is a master that I’m deeply grateful for Mooji because it was because of him, that I could have that experience. And I’m sure that other people have had similar experiences in one level or another. And Mooji continues to serve the seekers out there. But when you understand the deeper context of things, then you understand like, okay, Mooji is not a perfected master. Right, and he’s not a perfected master, then he may do things that are not helpful to you, as a student, following Mooji. And therefore, you need to keep your discernment alive. You need to keep the eye of consciousness kind of alive, not suspicious, not cynical. If you take Mooji, or any of these masters as your guru, there should be a certain level of trust and surrender, but at the same time, you should keep your discernment alive. And whether your discernment says that some things are not right, then that doesn’t mean you need to leave their master, but you’re just seeking within a bigger context.
Rick Archer: Yeah, seems to me that any really good teacher is never going to tell you to discard your discernment, you know, your discrimination. In fact, they would probably encourage you to use it. You know, they would have an attitude of Ask me anything, you know, if you have doubts, air your doubts, and I don’t mind, I can deal with it. I don’t know. I can’t comment on what the scene might be around Mooji with in that regard, but I think that, you know, that’s a healthy attitude. And like you say, that kind of attitude doesn’t contradict the notion of being trusting and kind of innocent. You don’t have to be this, you know, cynic and doubt everything. But just to sort of be honest about what you know, and what you don’t know and feel comfortable asking about anything that you don’t know, or that might trouble you. And, you know, yeah. Because that’s how adults get dispelled, isn’t it?
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah, well, there are a couple of interesting and polemic points in what you said. The first is. So, if you think that, if the master hasn’t achieved that final ultimate awakening, he’s still a work in progress, right. So, he still has shadows. So, if you still work in progress, he still needs to be practicing something to keep purifying the mind and growing. But the trick with new Advaita is that there’s this concept that all practices illusionary in the search is illusionary and you should give up the search. And I wouldn’t really classify Mooji as not Advaita. But there are some traces of anyone writing his teachings, just as there are traces in the teachings of Papaji, which is a master that I absolutely respect and think he’s there, level three or four. But because there are those out there, that idea that there is no need to practice anything that all comes from the ego, which seems to me to be the story that Mooji is kind of promoting to himself and others. I’m not sure how much self-reflection will happen to change certain things. So, if the teacher knows that he’s a work in progress in his acting like a work in progress, that’s better.
Rick Archer: Yeah, some of the teachers I respect, most like Adi Shanti, and Shakti, Catarina, Margie and others, they always say that, you know, I’m a work in progress, they never try to give the impression that they’re finished, and they don’t have anything more to learn or grow into.
Giovanni Dienstmann: You know, Shankara, there was another framework that was very helpful for me was what Shankara said about full awakening or realization. He said, there are three obstacles. There’s ignorance, there is impurity, and there is dissipation of mind. Ignorance, impurity and dissipation of mine. And Neo Advaita works only in the ignorance part. Right. So, at the end of that path, you have less ignorance, or you have no ignorance about who you are. Because there’s two impurities in the mind, the form of asanas. And there’s two dissipation of the mind your mind cannot write, then that realization is not permanent. And unless you address those two elements, it’s not going to be.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I would also question whether you could really actually be totally clear on who you are, you know, the first point, if there are vasanas, and impurities, because you’re sure you could have glimpses, I’m sure you could have glimpses. But I have a feeling that the vasanas and impurities would. And the sort of the agitation of the mind would prevent a really genuine, clear, stable state Self Realization, they just wouldn’t allow it. So, chances are, if you’ve dwelt a lot on Advaita principles, but haven’t taken care of the purification, that you’re going to end up mistaking an intellectual understanding for that for realization.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah. And that’s part of the preparation that will happen in those 12 years that the disciple will go through before they try to, that’s the thing, it’s just became clear now as they speak, they will leave the ignorance, the final ignorance about the ego to be tackled at the end. Because if you tackle that, at the beginning, there’s the risk of happening, what happens with Neo Advaita? They just said, okay, the ego is the ignorance, why it’s an illusion, why should I do all those other efforts. But if you have already gone through, that you have already purified your mind, you have already, you have a mind that you can stay still on a single point. without distraction, then the truth becomes clearer to you than it does the magic.
Rick Archer: Yeah. And you know, some people might think it’s odd that there’s this tradition of secret teachings, and you don’t get the higher teachings until you have progressed through, you know, all these different stages. But I think we’ve kind of addressed it here. And that is that the teaching that could be extremely helpful, a certain advanced stage could actually be harmful, that a more preliminary stage, because you’re not capable of understanding it, and you’re, you’re going it may confuse you, or you may end up Miss applying it in some way.
Giovanni Dienstmann: And that depends on the discernment of the teacher, or the seeker to know like, Am I there, to do that type of teaching and practice or not. And it’s hard, sometimes we’re going to miss judge and the more spiritually mature we become, the better is going to be our conclusion about these things. Until then we’re going to make mistakes and judge that we are one point that we’re not.
Rick Archer: And of course, in this these days, all the teachings are out there. So, it’s not like you can have them fed to you spoon by spoon as you progress. It’s like you can look at it. But you know, the Advaitic is part of Vedanta. And Vedanta means the end of the Veda. And the end, you know, means like the, you know, the kind of final teaching, but it doesn’t mean that all the previous teachings of the Veda are irrelevant or useless, they all have their function and leading you up to the point where the end teaching is germane is relevant to.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah, and another point that you mentioned that I myself question a lot is, because you said no real teacher would ask you to let go of your discernment and be like 100% blindly devoted. From my study, I seen a lot of Indian traditions apart from Buddhism, in a lot of Indian traditions, the guru bhakti, the devotion to the Guru is so emphasized is like such an important element. And in many texts and traditions you even see them saying things that like you have to give yourself up to the guru and have no Personal preference, no personal, like the guru, whatever the guru says is an order, there is no questioning, there’s no hesitation. If the Guru has flaws, you don’t look at it, because there’s going to be unhelpful for your own growth. Right? So those teachings exist. Okay, and they are there. And they are traditional, and they are dangerous. But they’re also true. In my point of view.
Rick Archer: I agree with you, actually, I mean, I think in probably a small percentage of cases that might really work, you know, and generally speaking, it would be a case where there’s a close personal relationship with the guru, and perhaps you’re living a recluse lifestyle, you know, you don’t have all kinds of other worldly responsibilities, and you could just become like an iron filing around a magnet, you know, that just sort of it’s in, stuck in the immediate orbit of that Guru. But boy, you know, that’s 1% of the cases, the other 99 have been cases of abuse.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah. And that’s something that I would, I mean, for the West, that doesn’t work, I will never promote these ideas, people that are ready for them, they will come and get to those ideas by themselves. But the other important point is that that only works with a 1% of the Guru’s also, not only 1% of the, so I wouldn’t do that with a guru on a level one or two, because there’s two chance that they’re still have desires and aversions and passes, etc., on a certain level that may still be harmful for you. Right. And there are very few gurus that are dead elevated, that you can actually practice that safety safely.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I don’t think I can name one. And if I can name one, I don’t think he’s asking people to do that. You know, yeah. And so if anybody asks you to do that, chances are it’s not one of those ones that you should trust with it. And so run the other way.
Giovanni Dienstmann: I would probably agree.
Rick Archer: Yeah, a few good questions have come in. Let me ask you a few of these questions. Here’s one from Nicola Cvetkovic from Belgrade, Yugoslavia. I think as a woman, she asks, how can one function in the world without ego, many scholars have the interpretation that the world only exists from the point of view of the ego.
Giovanni Dienstmann: From my understanding, a level of ego is always retained, even after Realization. The metaphor that Ramana uses for this is that it’s like a burnt rope. It still looks like a rope, but it cannot be used to tie anything. So your ego will still function like an ego. On some levels, and some very sattvic rarefied levels, it will still function like an ego as long as consciousness is embodied. But it cannot tell you anymore, it’s cleaned up. It’s harmless. And if it’s not harmless, it means that there’s free work to be done. And for everyone else, for all of us on the path. I would say that the priority shouldn’t be to think of destroying the ego or overcoming the ego, but rather to purify the ego to move from Temasek and Raja Yoga to a more sattvic ego.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I’ve heard various people say that you can really, if you’re going to drop the ego, you can actually really only drop a healthy ego. So, you can’t drop one that’s weak and impure. So there has to be a lot of strengthening and purification. Before you can think about, you know, becoming egoless.
Giovanni Dienstmann: It’s like the question, how can we cross the river without the boat? You use the boat into the very, very moment when you can jump out of the boat and land on land? And you’re good? Yeah, thank you. Good.
Rick Archer: Here’s a question that came in from Dan from Aaron Morton, from Dunedin, New Zealand. Aaron asks, how important is the role of self-inquiry together with devotion? I guess the idea is, can the two of them go hand in hand?
Giovanni Dienstmann: I think it can. If in your inclination in your heart, you feel that they’re both helpful for you right now. And practice them both together. When, after I’ve been with Lakshmana Swami that the darshan experience, my path for a while became more of a self-surrender path, rather than self-inquiry, because that’s what he taught surrender to the self in the heart. And at the time, they were kind of happening together. So yeah, they can be done together.
Rick Archer: Okay. So, there’s a section of the notes you sent me. They’re like, six different sections. I think we pretty much well, actually. There’s one that we didn’t cover yet. In section one of your notes. You mentioned yoga and tantra, and then you Samadhi mantra and Trataka I think everybody knows what Samadhi and mantra mean, and even maybe what Tantra means but and yoga. But what is Trataka?
Giovanni Dienstmann: Trataka? Is the meditation practice of gazing.
Rick Archer: gazing, okay, like a candle or the wall to?
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah, it’s usually done in the candle, but it can be a dot on the wall, it can be the moon, it can be non-object, it can be a photo of your guru, it can be anything. And the purpose is to concentrate the mind. So, I think the, the context for that note is, as I moved as I kind of had an awakening in Advaita. Why did I when, when the surgery awakened for me four years after I, why did I go back to Advaita? Well, it’s because of that understanding from chakras framework of the three poisons, and the Buddhist framework of the four levels of awakening, I realized that what I need most in my journey right now, is the ability to purify the mind and concentrate the mind, remove the dissipation of mind. And there are a lot of things in Ramana teachings that says the same thing. And then I thought, okay, what of all the methods of focusing the mind of all the matters of concentration? Which ones are going to be most helpful for me? Is it going to be to focus on the aim, which is like the most subtle of all subtle things? Or now probably, according to the yogi’s, you start by mastering your mind focusing on things that are more concrete? Like a mantra, Mantra is a sound like it’s kind of concrete, or something that you’re gazing. That’s concrete.
Rick Archer: You have you ever done mantra practice?
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah. So nowadays, mantra and Trataka are my main practices.
Rick Archer: Okay. Where did you get your mantra?
Giovanni Dienstmann: I got initiated by a tantric guru in India and he gave me the mantra.
Rick Archer: Okay, good. Okay, a second section, if you noticed about the gradual versus direct path. And I think this is interesting, I hosted a panel discussion at the Science non-duality conference on this very topic. And sagas, the some of the points that you wrote down, we can talk about, one is you say, your first point, maturity bias of the Masters, what does that mean?
Giovanni Dienstmann: Okay. So, this is something that I have realized that helps me put things in perspective in the path is that masters like Ramana, Maharshi, that they are at the top, when they teach. It’s like, they were like us so many lifetimes ago, they don’t really, they have lost that context. So, what I found in Scotland
Rick Archer: What it’s like to be us.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Right, so they can see us and maybe some masters can even read our minds. But sometimes the teachings into practice, the practices, that vices that they give require a level of strength and purity, and that we just don’t have it. So, it seems to me that the more with some rare exceptions, the more advanced the master is that the kind of more hardcore will be the teachings. And the more difficult it will be for the great majority of seekers to really, I mean, you will need something to bridge the gap. While teachers that are more closer to us in terms of maturity and progress, they understand better what it is to struggle we do what we struggle to be where we are on the path. And they can give things that are more maybe more concrete and more helpful for that next step that we need to give.
Rick Archer: Yeah, there’s a saying in India, which is that when the mangoes are ripe, the branches bend down so that people can easily pick the fruit. And I think it’s possible, I think, for a teacher to be very high, and yet to have the flexibility to teach all kinds of different levels. So, he can sort of meet people where they’re at. In fact, Rama was somewhat famous for being able to do that he would say different things to different people, according to their orientation, their aptitude, their level of development. But it’s an interesting point. I mean, obviously not. I mean, I started teaching meditation when I was 21 years old. And, you know, as I remember, some one time I was teaching, I had been meditating two or three years. And some guy said, I want to be like you and I thought, What in the world? Would you want to be like before? Just, I’m kind of a beginner. I just have this ability to have been taught to teach you this systematic thing. But it’s like, you know, a kid goes to school, first grade, comes home, and his little sister says, what did you learn? He said, well, I learned a and b, and I learned C and she said, What else do you really say? Well, I’ll tell you to borrow after I go back. So, we can teach something if we even though we may not have the highest teaching we can be evaluated.
Giovanni Dienstmann: And that’s the point in this in this understanding of the advanced masters and they have a maturity bias. That means that there is a space for other teachers on the path, they’re less developed to fill in that role. Because if I need to, if I don’t know basic arithmetic yet, and I need to Learn arithmetics a little. I mean, I don’t need to go to the PhD of mathematics.
Rick Archer: Right. it’s gonna be a waste of his time.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Maybe he can teach me maybe he can teach me automatics very well, right? But maybe that guy who teaches arithmetics. And that’s all he teaches all day long. Students that he’s on that level, maybe he knows how to teach that part better for people that are on that level. And the reason why that was important for me is I always wanted to go to the highest teaching, and the most advanced master and the most direct path. And I realized that sometimes that’s not what’s most helpful.
Rick Archer: It’s a good point, you know, because somebody, some people complain about all these teachers out there, offering sites on to little groups and offering webinars and all that stuff. And they, you know, they say, well, there’s so few teachers that are really great a teacher, you know, like Ramadan, Papaji. But I think we’re in a time where it’s appropriate for there to be like, armies of, of teachers running around, able to teach to a certain niche, you know, a certain group. In fact, when I became a teacher, one of the things that marshy, Mahesh Yogi said to us, was, he said, you know, when there’s a war on, there’s no time to train sharpshooters, just give them a gun and send them out. And so, he gave us some basic instructions on how to teach and, you know, we’re just like, kids basically sent us out and it had some effect.
Giovanni Dienstmann: So, it’s just important to keep in mind that the best teacher the best path, the best practice, for you is what is helpful for you to give the next step.
Rick Archer: Yeah, that’s good point. Okay, I think we’ve covered that. So, we’ve covered some of these other points in group one of your points. What do you say, what does this one mean? The highest standards of the yogi’s and then you have Shiva Rudra. Bala, Yogi and parentheses.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah. So that’s again about the maturity bias. So sure, the rebel yogi is someone I have spent time with and have been an ox ashram, in India, etc., we will kind of close for a certain period of time. But he and his masters, he and his master Shiva, Bala, Yogi say that meditation is when you can spend at least an hour without a single thought arising. If you cannot do that, you’re trying to meditate you’re not meditating, right?
Rick Archer: So, it’s gotta be pretty frustrating to the average person who hears that instruction, they’re gonna think that.
Giovanni Dienstmann: That is the most motivating thing I’ve ever heard. And you know, what I, I dug a little bit and I asked other disciples and other devotees, including the Ambaji, who she’s the one that has been with the Shiva web from the very beginning. Can you stay an hour without a thought? Just focusing here, which is where the teaching practice is said no, and I don’t know anyone who can? Good. Yeah. Okay. So. So there’s a big disconnect from where we are, to where he sees us the beginning. Right? And maybe his teachings are not the most helpful in helping us bridge that gap.
Rick Archer: Yeah, you know, there’s a saying that a person could be sitting on the top of a mountain, and he can be shouting out instruction is shouting out a description of what he experiences from the top of the mountain view, yes, from the top of the mountain. But that’s not necessarily going to be really helpful to people who are climbing the mountain, you know, what he needs to offer, someone needs to offer his instructions about where they are in their progress up the mountain, you know, watch out for this rock, watch out for this avalanche, you know, go over this way, and so on. That’s what’s actually going to get them to enjoy the same view that the guy at the top of the mountain has.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah. And that’s the role for teachers like you and me, and many people who have come to your sites to your podcast is we try to bridge that gap. We understand those high standards, and we are moving towards them. But we understand that people will need so many things before they can start doing that.
Rick Archer: Yeah. And it’s nice to have the high standards too, because you want to have a vision of what’s actually possible. You know that’s inspiring. But there are different teachings for different levels of development, and those are relevant to all right, think we’ve covered that point. Now, this is an interesting little section of points here, nonsectarian spirituality, and the first point, and that is, do all paths really lead to the same goal? And I’ve had this discussion a lot with some friends, Dana Sawyer among them who’s been on BatGap a couple of times, you know, if you had if you got Jesus and Buddha and Krishna and Rama and you know all these great writes into a room together to have tea and have a chat. Would they actually, you know, realize that they were all experiencing the same thing? What do you say to that?
Giovanni Dienstmann: I think that, at least for me, but perhaps for many of us, we have always had this idea that all of these teachings are different paths to the same end. But after two decades of spiritual search, I’m questioning myself like, is it really soul? Is it is it really that the difference is only that, because the explanation that they give is that different teachers have different temperaments, or they’re speaking to people of different temperaments, or they come from different cultural backgrounds? And that is what colors, the different explanations that they give about the path, the goal, the practice. But if I looking deep into these things, it doesn’t seem to me that it is the case. Just giving one small example Ramana in Shankara, said that, to keep a body, however subtle, is to throw a deal of ignorance on reality. So for their point of view, a fully realized Master has really dissolved it to the self and does not exist as an individual in any level, anywhere in the cosmos. Right? Just disappear.
Rick Archer: Once he’s dead, or even while he’s alive?
Giovanni Dienstmann: Once he’s dead because that would be the final? Yeah, he dropped his final body and he dropped the drops all the bodies and he doesn’t exist anymore. So, praying to Ramana wouldn’t make sense because there is no Rama there and some force of the universe may respond but not Brahman. So that is, that seems to be a drama, and I am Shankara and other Advaitic are saying, but you go to another lineage, let’s see the lineage of Baba Ji in La Jolla, Masha, and you fish bar. And you see that they, they speak of the master leaving the body and continuing to do work in subtle levels of reality to help people around there. And then a master that is already completely realized taking another body to come and do more work in this world, etc.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah. So, so I’m trying to understand this and see how all of this fits into picture. So, one option is, these are two different things. I one of them is right, the other one is wrong. Or another option is no, they’re actually they are different goals. Maybe, maybe the end of the spiritual journey for Advaita Vedanta is that completely self-effacement into the self. Maybe for many other paths, they don’t want that, or they don’t want that. So soon, they want to stick around, and maybe the story of the Bodhisattva in Buddhism, like they could become a Buddha, and just dissolving Nirvana, but they choose to stick around and continue to play in existence.
Rick Archer: I’ve probably spoken to maybe a dozen people who’ve actually had experiences with Rama, in some cases before they ever even heard of him. And you know, then later on, they saw a picture of him on the book or something. So that was the guy that I saw, you know, that came to me. So, it might have been that Rama got a surprise after he dies and realized that he was gonna still going to serve some kind of a role in creation? I don’t know. But I think one thing on this point is that, sure, different paths might have different goals. But ultimately, I think we would agree that there is some ultimate reality to the universe. And you can’t have as many ultimate realities as there are paths, because then they wouldn’t be ultimate, they would just be relative realities. And so, theoretically, the highest spiritual teachings, whatever they might be, will all lead to that ultimate reality. And if they didn’t, then they weren’t the highest, they would lead to some relative degree of attainment. And although the different cultures in which those traditions arose, might use different language, to try to describe that ultimate reality, it would still be the same thing. And different beings might have different roles to play, maybe some of them do dissolve, like a drop into the ocean and no longer exist in any way shape, or form. Maybe some retains some kind of form through which they can function. So that might just be an individual Dharma thing, you know what your role is to play. But still, we come back to the point that ultimately there should be some ultimate reality and that that’s what enlightenment is ultimately about is the realization of that.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah, so reality needs to be one. But maybe there are different maybe there’s a choice as you’re going about in the spiritual path, like do I want to just disappear into the eternal Do I want to play in manifestation? Yeah. Because the eternal the one without a second is both Brahman and Maya. So, do I want to go to do I want to test in a way to like really want to be the just the Brahman? Or do I want to continue being the Brahman but also in Maya, maybe that’s a choice that they have.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Also, with regard to God, there’s that choice. Do I want to be totally merged? Or do I want to maintain some separation for the sake of devotion? That question is a traditional one.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah. Because if I think that all of the spiritual path is for the ultimate goal of disappearing, and that doesn’t motivate me so much.
Rick Archer: Yeah.
Giovanni Dienstmann: And some people may say, like, yeah, that’s because you were attached to an ego, you want to continue existing as an individual. But then I say, like, did the universe is the universe in a hurry for us to awaken? I mean, if we look at the Vedas, before, there was only Brahman, and then from time to time, Brahman manifests as the universe. And then it goes back to a time when there’s only brown. So when it is manifesting in the universe, is it in a hurry that okay, now there is illusion, let’s make sure that all these individual beings, and make sure that this show finishes as quickly as possible? Is that the purpose? That doesn’t make sense for me.
Rick Archer: Yeah, it seems that the universe is has a great deal of patience. And it’s on a pretty big timescale, I mean, 13 point 7 billion years and in this particular cycle of it, and it said that there are numerous cycles, and perhaps infinite universes. So, it’s a big picture. And in my experience, and understanding the ride is enjoyable. And I don’t really sweat it in terms of, you know, whether I’ll cease to exist or whether I’ll come back or whether there’ll be some role to play on some level or other. It’s like, leave it in God’s hands and just and do the best one can to be an instrument of that divine intelligence.
Giovanni Dienstmann: In this sense, I like the concept of Leela. Yeah. And I think that the tantric tradition maybe got this a little bit more in a way that is more appealing for most of us.
Rick Archer: More than Advaita Buddhism at all.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah, because that is a bit more holistic. But for in the tantric tradition, the universe is the leader of the Supreme. And if the Supreme just wanted to be the supreme, it wouldn’t have manifested at all. It doesn’t manifest so that the manifestation finishes as quickly as possible. It’s part of its nature to be just a supreme and to as if manifest as a universe. And that’s its Lila. And if we see it as Lila, then there’s a lightness about it, and there’s it for me, it’s much more motivating, it feels much different the way I approach the spiritual path.
Rick Archer: I think that’s a great point at that point inspires me. And it comes up fairly often in conversations here. Also, the notion of, you know, God, I mean, if we look at the universe, any little bit of it, and consider what a Marvel is, you know, how many atoms are in this glass and what’s happening in each of those atoms and, you know, and subatomic particles and the whole thing, I mean, you know, if the whole thing were just random and accidental, which some materialist tried to say it is, the second law of thermodynamics would have grounded the dust a long time ago. In fact, it never would have arisen. There’s, there’s this notion of biocentrism. And there are about 200 different variables, any one of which, if it had been slightly off, like the strength of gravity, or various other things, we wouldn’t have had a universe or wouldn’t have had any life in the universe. And yet, we do have the universe and life and all these variables were perfectly tuned to enable that to happen. So that doesn’t seem like randomness or accident. It seems like profoundly designed intelligence that that has orchestrated this thing and set it up as in a way that we can barely comprehend.
Rick Archer: So, a bit about meditation, your book is called practical meditation. And you pretty much summarize all the different kinds of meditation that one might practice. And it’s nicely illustrated all kinds of cool stuff in here. So, do you see you know, all the various meditations as being equal, or do you kind of see those different strokes for different folks and that people are naturally going to gravitate to one form of meditation or another according to their inclinations there or nature.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yes. And yes, basically, I think that there are different ways of looking at all of these meditation techniques. And each of them, there are a lot of common benefits, regardless of the technique you choose. But each of them has a different kind of taste and experience and different benefits also to it. So, it depends on your personality. If the meditation you choose depends on your personality, it can depend even on things like Are you a more of an auditory person, more of a visual person or more of a kind of a body person. Because if you’re more of a body person, you may really enjoy breath awareness, meditation, and that may come so natural for you. If you’re more of an auditory person, you may like mantra to the sound or you may like another yoga. If you’re more of a visual person, you may like gazing Trotter. So, there are many elements to choosing a meditation technique, there is going to be the one that kind of flows better for you. And it also depends on what you need to develop the most, at this time in your journey. So, if what you need to develop the most is letting go of certain negative emotions, overcoming anger, being more empathetic and loving opening our heart, then maybe the loving kindness meditation from the Buddhist tradition is the best one for you right now. If your mind is really, really messy and dissipated, I would say traffic is really powerful for kind of uniting the stream of the mind that gazing? Yeah, so it depends on many things. And I would say that one meditation practice is not better than the others, just like one path is not better than the other. And unfortunately, I see a lot of this sectarian thinking out there, I see it in Zen, I see it in the passion, I see it in Advaita I seating TM, like, this is the best and the other ones, they just longer or they reinforce the ego or whatever. And I think that that is very narrow-minded way of seeing and I think that misses the picture is that for different people, you will need different practices. And so the best practice is the one that works for you, at this moment in your journey, and five years from now may be different.
Rick Archer: Yeah, you know, I think there’s a human tendency to sort of want to feel that what I am doing is the best because if it’s not the best, why am I doing it? You know, I should be doing something else if something else is better, so it must be the best because I’m doing it.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah, and you see, even the Masters reinforce that, you know, like Ramana says that self-inquiry and self-surrender are the superior techniques. And your teacher says that the Kriya Yoga is the best way to evolve.
Rick Archer: And Mark and Yogananda said that kriya yoga was like an airplane, you know, that could get you somewhere quickly. And then marshy, Mahesh Yogi came along and said, Well, yeah, fine. But TM is the jet plane, it goes faster than the airplane.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah, so it’s a form. It’s like, why even the Masters kind of indulgent this type of thinking. And I feel like, as you as you mentioned, there is some usefulness to that, you know, even there’s some usefulness to dogma, if I am with a mastering that I am with a path and he says like, this is the best path, the only way forward, the most effective technique like, okay, I’m not going to think about anything else, I’m going to focus on this 100%. And we’re going to have better results. But if all techniques are equally good, and beautiful and useful, which is kind of like what I’m pointing to, it may be that the person is like, doesn’t know where to begin. So, what I say is like, you have a period of experimentation that you are exploring, you’re kind of going wide. And then you have a time that you’re going deep. And ideally, you choose one path, one way one practice and stick to that, but you do that, after you have experimented after you have broadened your view.
Rick Archer: Of course, the dark side of this is, you know, when you get people who say, Well, anybody who doesn’t believe what I believe is an infidel, and should actually be killed, you know, or converted, or those are the two choices, you know, otherwise, and the whole world is going to eventually either be killed or converted, you know, to so it’ll all be one thing, or those kind of extreme value of this line of thinking. Hmm. Okay, um, then it’s kind of useful to go through these notes, because we’re bringing out some things that I don’t always talk about. You mentioned the word charging, presuming money is and some people say that nobody should charge for spiritual teaching. And others say, well, yeah, but you got to make teachers have to eat and pay the rent. And so, what is your attitude toward that?
Giovanni Dienstmann: So, in the beginning, I was very against charging anything for a spiritual teaching or even meditation. And little by little I changed my mind about that, and that’s why I started the blog. And I think there’s some important points here to clarify. First is, we can we can teach and practice meditation outside of a spiritual search, right. And there are many people who do that. And every time more in the West, especially for mindfulness and depression, people are seeking meditation and they don’t want all that spiritual. They don’t want spiritual path. They don’t want the spiritual concepts they just want to practice that will help them deal with anxiety. Like many people that come to me, that’s what they need. And then yeah, if I give them the practice, and their anxiety will improve, they will manage it better or may even disappear, then they may be open to say like, okay, so what else is there? If this makes such a difference in my life, like what else is there? Is it that those ancient Yogi’s invented one thing that is a gem and everything else is rubbish? Or probably not? Probably, there’s some other gems in what they said, as well. So, if you think about what happened to yoga, in the past, it was the same thing, like you, people would frown upon you teaching yoga, I’m talking about the asanas and being paid for it, but now it’s just commonplace. Like, you know, like, okay, if I just, if I want the oldest, I want to ask him as I’m going to pay for a studio teacher, someone that lives by doing that. And that’s okay. If I go to yoga in a cave, I probably don’t need to pay anything. But there are people who are paying for his life, that people who are donating things for him. And the same will happen with meditation, we are still in that phase where people who are very traditional in meditation, like myself in a way, I feel a bit off by charging for meditation. But if you’re teaching me, the first thing is if you’re teaching meditation in a secular context, as a tool of growth, of healing of self-exploration, then you’re not charging for spiritual teachings. That that’s one thing. The other important thing is let’s say that this argument that you shouldn’t charge for meditation, spirituality wins, let’s say that everyone is convinced by that, you know, there are some people who are not going to be convinced by that. And its people who are companies, companies that are looking at these things simply as a profit, they will continue to promote and create apps and books and retreats and whatever, right. So, if you convince everyone who is a true spiritual seeker that wants to dedicate his life, to share these teachings in these practices, if you convince them to not do that, because they shouldn’t charge, they’re going to have to have a job. And their ability to dedicate themselves to this is going to be severely diminished. Right, and that is not in service of people, because their, the spiritual aspect of meditation will become smaller and smaller, because people who are, who have a spiritual background do not want to charge for meditation. But people who don’t have a spiritual background, we will look at meditation as a business. And what happens is that their version of meditation there, that’s going to be the one that gets spread. And I don’t think that’s good for anyone.
Rick Archer: I mean, back in the olden days, a monk would go around with his begging bowl, get enough food to eat. And there would be some support from the community for the ashram or the, you know, where the monks lived. And they would teach, you know, but that so there was a sort of socialism kind of support for them. These days, in the West, teachers can’t really do that, and they have rent to pay and, you know, maybe health insurance and food, all that stuff. So, it’s kind of silly in a way to just say, well, spirituality is about consciousness, and consciousness is a far cry from money. So there shouldn’t be any money involved. But like everything else, it can be taken to extremes and abused and, you know, become a mercenary kind of endeavor. So, again, the students should probably use their discernment and discrimination and decide whether they feel comfortable with the way the whole money issue is being handled by a teacher that they want to get involved with.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah, and I would say that the more that sincere teachers and seekers who have something to share, the more they are able to make a comfortable living, dedicated themselves dedicating themselves fully to the teaching, the more the Dharma, in all its versions will flourish. And this is something that I learned only recently, but even in the Vedas, even in the in the ancient traditions, there’s this idea that you cannot you should not get knowledge for free. Right? If there’s a master, there’s a teacher, someone giving you knowledge, giving him a technique, if they even have the idea that if you get it for free, it’s not going to work.
Rick Archer: So, there’s Dakshina.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Dakshina, exactly. So, Dakshina, you can see it as a kind of energetic exchange from a psychological level. make sense, like, we don’t value things that we don’t pay for it on many aspects, but the Dakshina. So, if you want to receive something that is so valuable from the guru, from the teacher, you need to give something back. And that’s something back, it could be money to help him pay his bills, it could be knowledge, it could be service in the form of server, but you need to give something back. And nowadays, in our type of society, that’s usually a money, right, which helps the teacher to continue to live and, and teach full time.
Rick Archer: Yeah, it’s a medium of exchange, you can very well give them a cow and it’s not gonna be so useful. Okay, final topic, and then we’ll wrap it up. Someone, a friend of yours, named Daniel from Newport, Vermont, said, Hey, Giovanni, it’s your friend Daniel. Do you feel that occult practices and learning cities can help one transmit teachings of awakening, being able to really see someone to know what teaching or transmission of energy to give? I know that you yourself kind of started out with occult practices many years ago. And in your notes, here, you say, the spiritual taboo on psychic powers and their role in liberating science. So, what’d you have to say about all of that?
Giovanni Dienstmann: It’s a big topic, and it’s controversial. But let me start by saying this, if you look at the Yoga Sutras, okay, 1/6 of all the verses in yoga sutras are about Siddhis. Okay. And at that time, it was very difficult to write, they didn’t have paper, right? So much. So, they potentially only wrote 240 verses, and he dedicated big part of that, to say this, how to develop them, etc. So, cities have been a part of spiritual awakening and spiritual paths in many traditions. Some people hate them, and think that they’re just distraction, some people love them and seek them for what they are. And some people say like, no, they can be useful or they can be hindrances. Now in the Yoga Sutras, verse 37, or 38, it says that these cities, there are obstacles to the mind in Samadhi, but they are faculties to the exteriorized mind. So, when you Samadhi, when you are in that deep state of union, right, and these Siddhis appear, like you have a vision of your past life, or you start levitating, or whatever, whatever it is, if that appears in that state, it’s a distraction. But for the exteriorized mind, the yogi does not live in Samadhi all the time, he lives in the world. So, when he comes out of Samadhi, those cities, they are faculties. And they are things that he can use. And we see, I mean, just read The Autobiography of a Yogi. Sure, from Yogananda, living with the Himalayan masters from Swami Rama, and you see that very advanced Yogi’s and masters, they had Siddhis, and they did use them, on certain occasions, always, always for good things, not for entertainment, not for showing off, but for good things. So yes, I think as a, as a teacher, if the teacher has the Siddhi that he can look at, the student can understand everything that is going on in their life and can see the student deeply without the student needing to explain much, that can be very helpful. I have a friend that he’s ex monk from the, from a Tibetan tradition. And he says that in Tibetan Buddhism, it’s considered a perfect Master would have all of these skills so that he can truly serve at a deeper level.
Rick Archer: So congruent with Christianity, I mean, Jesus had a bunch of different cities, according to
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah. So that is one thing. Siddhis is something that can come on the path as you’re practicing, they are something that can be purposefully sought after, for a certain period of time. And if you do that, the skills that you develop in, in trying to practice the developer city, they will be helpful for other things in your path as well. But it should never be misused. And that’s the big challenge. Once the person gets those Siddhis, it’s very easy to fall into the ego to want to show off or to want to use that to fulfill other types of desires that should not be used for.
Rick Archer: Yeah, you can go over to the dark side, you know, like Darth Vader and use them to strangle people or whatever he did. But um, yeah, I think it’s a good point. I mean, I think I know very, yeah. Have you ever experienced a city or development?
Giovanni Dienstmann: I haven’t developed the Siddhi, but I have experienced some times.
Rick Archer: Yeah. It’s good. We brought it up. Like you say we could talk about it for a long time and we don’t have the time to do that. But it is there. and pretty much every spiritual tradition, and it certainly was a big part of the Yoga Sutras and the Buddha is reputed to have all kinds of different Siddhis. And so, it’s a little bit simplistic, I think, to just brush it off. As a distraction or an obstacle, it seems to have had its role seems to have its role in higher forms of spirituality. So, it’s perhaps something to take seriously and to understand.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah, I mean, if you think of a person coming to a yogi or a guru and saying, like, I’m interested in practicing meditation, only to have better memory, it’s gonna be useful in my life. The August problem, it’s gonna teach you meditation, he said, Look, you’re gonna have better memory, you’re gonna have many other things, right? But another person comes to the audience say, I want to learn meditation, so I can remember my past lives, then suddenly, like, shame on you, how dare you like, this is an obstacle, etc. You know, it’s, it’s not so different. It’s a skill of the mind. And it’s not the end goal. But if that’s what motivating is motivating a person to learn meditation and to be on the path, I’d say, do it, right, just go for it. But at the same time, understand that this is only a small chapter have a larger story and a higher goal.
Rick Archer: Yeah, which brings us back to a point we’ve made a number of times during this interview, which is that there’s a value to knowledge if you just really ponder this stuff, and really think about it and dwell on it, which is one of the pillars of spiritual practice, in many traditions, you know, knowledge and dwelling, keeping your attention on this kind of thing. Everything kind of tends to fall into its proper context. And you don’t overemphasize something to the exclusion of others. And so that’s part of the reason I do these interviews. This just sort of helps me to keep myself focused on knowledge. But it also I think, helps the people who listen to them and broadens their perspective. Hopefully.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah, and before we finalize, I just want to touch on the topic, although the Siddhis role in liberating science, our Western Civilization and culture is, is heavily based on influencing the science. And our science is very materialistic, right? If our science became more spiritualize, if it started studying the spiritual topics, more, if it started opening up to that whole level of reality, then there’ll be so many positive benefits. So many areas like medicine, philosophy, it’d be a huge benefit for society. If science started to say, like, look, there’s actually more to our life than this body, and our actions matter. And there’s karma. Imagine if that can be proved on the end, there’s a past life. And we’re actually more connected than we think. Some people can even read, read minds of each other, that will change the world view, little by little millions of people.
Rick Archer: Yeah. That’s my favorite topics. And I gave a talk at the Science non-duality conference in 19. In 2015, about that, you and I could go on another two hours about it, but we’re not going to be able to right now. But that’s it’s a very important point. We live in a scientific age; spirituality can really get science on the right track. And science can really help spirituality by giving it a more empirical, practical, systematic, verifiable orientation.
Giovanni Dienstmann: And once some advanced Yogi’s that have this Siddhis is mastered, they decided to come up and to demonstrate this in scientific means. And then there’s no explanation within science for what they’re doing that to for science to review some of these paradigms.
Rick Archer: Yep., paradigms will have to shift. Okay, well, obviously, I enjoy talking to you. And we’re gonna have to conclude so you teach, you have some kind of whole online meditation program, don’t you that people can go through and a step-by-step way and try various kinds of meditation and then hopefully find one that they want to stick with.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Sure. So, for those that want to learn more, they can check LiveandDare, which is my website, and
Rick Archer: We will link to it from your page on that. Yeah.
Giovanni Dienstmann: Yeah, and the program is called Limitless Life and it’s really for everyone that wants to start or deepen a meditation practice, but specifically focus on people struggling with anxiety.
Rick Archer: Good. Okay, so um, I guess we’re gonna conclude now, you know, an interview can’t be as ever be as comprehensive as I would like it to be because I would like to just sort of talk to you for eight hours, am I really getting everything but this is a kind of a sampling. It’s a taste and those who found Giovanni’s points where they have deeper exploration, I’ll link to his website from his page on batgap.com. You can go there, there’s some very interesting articles on his site to read. And you can sign up for his email newsletter, right and you’ll be notified of webinars and so on, buy his book if you want to. I’ll have a link to that. Okay, thanks, Giovanni. So, and thanks to those who have been listening or watching next week, I’ll be speaking with Dani Antman. And we’re going to be talking about Kabbalah. And I don’t think I’ve ever done an interview on that. So, it’s about time that I got around to doing one. So, I’ll see you then. Thanks.