Joseph Goldstein Transcript

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Joseph Goldstein Interview

Rick Archer: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer and my guest today is Joseph Goldstein. Joseph is co founder of the Insight Meditation Society where he is one of the resident guiding teachers. And the bear is it pronounced Barry are very center for Buddhist studies, both in barre Massachusetts. He’s the author of mindfulness A Practical Guide to awakening, a heart full of peace, one Dharma, the emerging Western Buddhism, insight, meditation, and the experience of insight. Those are all separate books, not one book of a long title. He has also co authored books with Sharon Salzberg and Jack Kornfield. Joseph has studied and practiced meditation since 1967, under the guidance of eminent teachers from India, Burma, Tibet, and Tibet, and he leaves insight meditation retreats around the world. So thanks, Joseph, for coming on the show. It’s a pleasure. Yeah. So I have a lot of questions for you some that I thought of, and some that a friend of mine submitted. So I’ll be asking those a little bit later. But I thought maybe I would start since. As I understand it, Buddhism is all about Enlightenment, ultimately, asking you for your definition of Enlightenment.

Joseph Goldstein: I think the very simplest and most pragmatic, do description of the enlightened mind, from the Buddhist perspective is the mind that has been freed of greed and hatred and delusion. So rather than try to describe it as some esoteric metaphysical state, I like this definition, which comes right from the discourses from researchers, because it’s so pragmatic, and we can check our own minds against it. Has greed and desire been weakened and uprooted or not? As ill will be not rooted or not. So I like the pragmatism of that of that way of understanding.

Rick Archer: I like that too, because sometimes you hear people claiming to be awakened or enlightened or something. And they’re still acting like schmucks. So you wonder. Now, you said, the enlightened mind, is that perhaps an oxymoron? I mean, is it the mind that gets enlightened or what exactly happens when Enlightenment occurs?

Joseph Goldstein: Well, it’s, it’s that reality that appears when the mind is freed of those defilements. So what obscures the enlightened state, one might say, are precisely those those forces, you know, of confusion, of aversion, of greed. And so I think, I think we can speak up the enlightened mind or the Enlightened heart. You know, in many Asian languages, the word for mind and heart are the same. And I think that gives a fuller picture of what we’re talking about here in the West, we tend to divide minds and hearts. And so it can get a little confusing. Yeah.

Rick Archer: So I like that that. So I guess you would, you would say then that if the mind is full of impurities, or defilements, as you put it, then it tends to be very opaque. And that that obscures What is it obscure Exactly?

Joseph Goldstein: Well, one could say it obscures the true nature of mind, or the the purified nature of mind,

Rick Archer: which already obscures itself you’re saying? Yeah, okay. Now, as you know, in some spiritual traditions, it’s understood or taught that there’s a kind of a pure essence or pure consciousness, sometimes referred to the cell as the self with a capital assets, some kind of ground state or, or foundation or, you know, bedrock of our existence, which is not even personal, it’s universal, and that the impurities you’re referring to obscure that so it wouldn’t be that the mind is obscuring itself, but that it’s kind of obscuring one’s true nature with its defilements would you resonate with that or no,

Joseph Goldstein: you’re getting right to the depth of things. You know, even within the Buddhist traditions, there’s a wide range of description of what we’re calling the mindful or the awakened, the awakened state. And so depending on which tradition you’re speaking of, or with, you’re gonna get different metaphysical descriptions. And I went to a A bit of a crisis with Understanding these differences some years ago, and which was actually the Om thing for exploring and then writing my book one Dharma, because I had been studying the Burmese teachings of upasana, no insight meditation for for many years, you know, 3035 years. And then I started practicing with some very renowned Tibetan masters, and their description of Enlightenment. It was like a different metaphysical system. And some of what they were saying was contradictory. So this became a real spiritual burning for me, it was almost like this Koan that I needed to resolve in myself. And I was there was proceeding with the question in my mind, who’s right? Because if one was right than the other must be wrong. After struggling with this for for quite a while, and specifically on one particular retreat, this burning question, I realized I was asking the wrong question, that it’s not so much a question of who’s right. I framed it more in terms of metaphysics, and metaphysical descriptions as skillful means. That is that these teachings are the skillful means for freeing the heart. Rather than having the metaphysics be some statements of absolute truth. If we take the teachings as statements of truth, then differences of view really create conflict. If we take on the skillful means that we ask ourselves to these teachings helped to free us, then we can, we can actually use opposing teachings. If they each serve to free us in certain ways, then there’s no conflict at all. And so then I further ask the question, well, skillful means for what you know, and really trying to apply it in my life in practice. And I came to see that the underlying teaching of all the traditions was to free the mind from clinging to free the mind from grasping, there’s no, certainly within Buddhism, there’s no teaching that says, clean. You know, and so that became the the bottom line reference point for my practice. And so then it’s a question of really examining one’s experience, when the mind is free of clinging. What what is that experience like? And I think that’s a more helpful approach than trying to pin down the metaphysical reality. Yeah, that’s what was gonna be done, just concepts and concepts are always limited.

Rick Archer: Would you say that maybe the different metaphysical flavors that you run into in different areas and different cultures and so on, and we can broaden this beyond Buddhism and begin to speak of other spiritual traditions around the world are just sort of a, I don’t mean to say blind men and the elephant, because these people aren’t exactly blind, we would say, but just there’s, you know, we’re all kind of approaching the same reality, from within different cultural contexts and with different different sort of different nervous systems we each have, and therefore we’re not our expressions are naturally going to vary from one to the other according to our orientation, our culture, our, you know, our whole language in which we’ve been trained in our spiritual tradition.

Joseph Goldstein: I think that’s that’s definitely true, the many cultural expressions of the spiritual path. It’s not to say, though, that I think necessarily that all spiritual traditions aim to accomplish the same thing, or lead to the same place. There may be many to do, but there may well be different spiritual paths that actually have different aims. So it takes it takes a fair amount of discernment to see where a path is leading.

Rick Archer: Yeah, I think that might segue into one of the questions posed by a friend of mine that you may know this guy’s name is Dana Sawyer. He is a teacher of comparative religions that main College of Art and in Portland, an old friend of mine, he, he asked several questions here. Several religions that originated in India have the goal of Enlightenment, though they each tend to define it differently. What do you think of the Hindu view than Enlightenment is a state of consciousness in which one is continuously having the experience of Brahman or the divine ground of being? How is that criteria of Enlightenment different from and either superior or inferior to the Buddhist definition? Maybe this kind of harkens back to your answer the previous question where?

Joseph Goldstein: Well, it does and I also have no experience with the Hindu tradition or practices. So anything I might say is just basically based on hearsay. Yeah. I think the key point from a Buddhist perspective with respect to awakening is whether there’s still any sense of identification with anything at all, even with consciousness. So to go from a small sense of self, to a big sense of self, if that big sense of self involves being identified with it, then from a Buddhist perspective, that would not yet be awakening, because we’re still, we’re still imprisoned by a sense of I, you know, a sense of the knower of it all. And so freedom from identification with anything. And that’s why I like the reference points of liberation, through non clinging. And it’s not clinging to anything, not clinging to consciousness, not clinging to big self. So the operative, the operative experience is the non clinging, not the state.

Rick Archer: So then, for instance, the Upanishad statements such as you know, I am that that thou art, all that kind of statement denotes a sort of clinging to steal, or personal identification with the ultimate reality? Well, it

Joseph Goldstein: could, again, people use language and descriptions in so many different ways. And to rush to a superficial judgment about what’s meant by that phrase, I think, would not be wise, you know, we’d have to really explore what’s meant by that.

Rick Archer: Yeah, fair enough. And so one could actually other such a statement, and still not be sort of saying that, my personal individual self is that in any sense of the word, but but that, you know, that universal reality, I have come to know as my true nature, so to speak here, it has come to know itself through the instrumentality of, of this.

Joseph Goldstein: Yeah, you know, one of the things I’ve learned from you, I’ve been practicing now for quite a while for about 40 years or so. And I practice mostly within the Buddhist tradition, but I’ve done done, you know, some readings in other traditions. And one of the things that I’ve seen, even from within the Buddhist context, is that it’s very hard to know what a text means without having practiced it. Yeah. Because we can read it and get some conceptual, like intellectual understanding of it. But that may be quite different than what the actual experience is. So I’m a little reluctant to pass judgment based simply on reading. Yeah, it’s very good to come out of experience.

Rick Archer: Right. Yeah. And I would agree. So let’s get to another question here. So we talked about Enlightenment a little bit and you define that as sort of the freedom from the mental defilements? Which cause cause the mind to obscure one’s true nature, if I’m stating that correctly? Do you regard there are in your tradition? Or in your experience? Do you regard there to be stages or levels of Enlightenment or awakening? frizzen, some preliminary stages, intermediate stages, and have you seen if so, these see a tendency for people to sometimes jump the gun and mistake preliminary or intermediate stage of awakening for the final thing.

Joseph Goldstein: I think that’s very possible. Within classical Tera, Vaada teachings, you know, the kind of Buddhism you find in Thailand and Burma, and Sri Lanka. The path is very well mapped in terms of the stages of awakening. And there are what are called the four stages of Enlightenment. They’re called stream enter, once returned to non returner, aren’t fully liberated. And at each one of them, different defilements are uprooted and the further ones weakened. And so that’s the process. It’s a gradual process of uprooting those forces in the mind which which creates suffering. Now, it is very possible that people have a certain experience of awakening at one of the earlier stages, which can be so powerfully transforming that without proper guidance, they might think that well I’m done I’m I’m finished the path, whereas there might well be further further obstructions, you know, to work with. So that’s very possible. And I think that happens a lot where we see teachers, you know, in the broader spiritual scene, getting into trouble in one way or another I think it’s often because they may have had a genuine realization. And think perhaps that the job is all done. But still, there are other other work to do.

Rick Archer: Do you think the job is ever done?

Joseph Goldstein: I hope so. One of the most one of the phrases one finds in the texts, which has always inspired me from the very beginning, it’s, it’s like the song of the Enlightenment, the alignment of beings, I think the texts, and they say done is what had to be done. You know, which really does imply Yes, there is an end to the path. Yeah. And I find that very reassuring.

Rick Archer: I mean, as I don’t know much about Buddhism, and you know, it’s ironic, because this is called Buddha at the Gas Pump. And I’ve only had a handful of Buddhists on the show, and I sometimes get called on that. So it’s good to add to the tally here talking to you. But um, as I understand that, the Buddha himself still engaged in spiritual practice for the rest of his life after his awakening, you know, still meditated a certain number of hours a day or whatever. And so was that just as if that’s true? Is that just to set an example? Or do you feel like even in his case, there could still had been some refinement or something taking place,

Joseph Goldstein: as its described, and of course, I don’t know personally. But the way I understand it, he was he was really done by had to be done. However, what that means is that one is abiding in a place of awareness, you know, and one abides in it in various postures, sitting, standing, walking, lying, in communicating and not communicating. And so in one sense, there’s nothing else to do, except to be practicing meditation in that sense, which is mean, which means simply being aware. And so one of the ways he would be abiding, you know, in his awakened state would be sitting in meditation.

Rick Archer: I seem to remember some quote where he said it was good for the body or something restful to Yeah, yeah. Getting back to where we were just a minute ago. Do you feel that? Some? I think maybe this is an obvious question. But so that’s some latent defilements, these determine the mind would be responsible for a person assuming that they’re finished when they’re not. In other words, some kind of like, I don’t know, there’s the term spiritual ego, you know, one has some kind of awakening and the ego gets spiritualize. But it’s still very much intact. And yet, one is blind to that because of some, you know, defilements

Joseph Goldstein: Yeah, no, I think that’s very much the case. It’s interesting in the, in the classical list of the unwholesome states that are eliminated at the various stages of awakening, it’s in one of the lists, there are 1010 of the states I mentioned. Ignorance, the final ignorance in the mind is not uprooted until the last stage of awakening. So, even after one has seen through the illusion of self, you know, when when it comes to an understanding of the basic selflessness of the process, still is levels of ignorance in the mind, which kind of catch us up in terms of desire in terms of aversion, in terms of restlessness in terms of conceit, the sense of I n, is also not uprooted until the very end. So even as one has had a deep understanding of emptiness and emptiness itself, the habit pattern of these other obstructive forces are still there, which is why more work needs to be done.

Rick Archer: You know, the story of the Buddha where he was finally sat down under the Bodhi tree and, you know, said this is it, you know, I’m not going to get up until I’m done. And but then he was assailed by all these forces of temptation and horrible things and all that. Do you think that there’s sort of a conspiracy in the way the universe is structured to try to thwart our, our final Enlightenment by throwing us off the track?

Joseph Goldstein: I don’t know if there’s a conspiracy work, but it definitely seems to be the nature of the the unenlightened mind. There are these deeply, deeply conditioned habit patterns of all those forces you mentioned, you know, but the forces of Morrow, which were sailing the Buddha under the tree that really personifications of forces in our own minds, and that’s why I love that image because, you know, sitting on retreat and teaching retreats, as people are sitting in the meditation hall, in one way, they’re sitting under the Bodhi tree, just like the bodhisattva facing the same forces, you know, desire arises and it will arise in restlessness because this is the nature of the unawakened mind these forces are there I’m deeply conditioned. And from the Buddhist perspective, this has happened this, this does not have a beginning, been since beginningless time, these forces have been at work. So I don’t say it’s so much as a conspiracy is just the nature of things.

Rick Archer: I just started through that word out came to mind. It

Joseph Goldstein: feels like a conspiracy. Yeah, but one of the things I still appreciate about the Buddha’s teachings, given how deeply habituated these patterns are, is that quite amazingly, he saw the way through, he saw the path that actually led to freedom. So that’s quite an amazing discovery. And many people have walked on that path.

Rick Archer: It would almost seem that if Enlightenment were a piece of cake, I mean, if it were just something that we all naturally grew into, as we, as we aged, we wouldn’t have much of a universe because it’d be just to sort of, you know, retreat into into oneness and dissolution of the whole thing. So it almost seems like these forces which tempt us outwardly are kind of necessary, a necessary part of the whole package for there to be manifestation and creation.

Joseph Goldstein: I think that’s more probably a Hindu way of looking at things. And I think it’s unlikely. And I don’t think it quite works that way is kind of the older we get the Wiser we necessarily become.

Rick Archer: Well, I wasn’t saying that. No.

Joseph Goldstein: I mean, from the from the Buddhist in my understanding, anyway, it’s not that we’re all destined to awaken, you know, and we’ll just get there one way or another. Rather, it takes the effort and takes understanding to fix the application.

Rick Archer: Oh, yeah. Well, I mean, are we all destined ultimately, in the Buddhist perspective, I mean, after X number of lifetimes is, are all beings sort of flowing in that stream toward that goal? Or not necessarily. So I’m

Joseph Goldstein: in my understanding, not necessarily really, really depends on kind of the effort or the the interest in the effort and the investigation that a person makes, because if we were all heading in that direction, given the infinite time that has already passed, we should have already been awake and

Rick Archer: true, although that guess is just a whole esoteric, you know, conception that may be new souls come along and rise up through the process and universe after universe this whole cycle continue. But who knows?

Joseph Goldstein: Who knows? Who knows has become one of my favorite monitors.

Rick Archer: Yeah. It gets very speculative. Letting dog in here, I believe.

Joseph Goldstein: Does a dog have Buddha nature?

Rick Archer: Mu. I would say yes. But harkening back to something you said a few minutes ago about fair Theravada Buddhism, having this nicely delineated roadmap of different stages of awakening, I just want to comment and maybe get your your comments. Seems to me that something that contemporary spirituality in the West could really use more of, you know, unless I guess one is really established in a tradition, which has laid something like that out. There’s a there’s a lot of sort of vagueness and fuzziness in I think, in contemporary spiritual thinking about what actually the possibilities are. And that’s why I asked that question earlier about, is it possible to sort of have an awakening and think you’re done? That’s probably more likely if there hasn’t been a clear intellectual understanding of, you know, the full range of possibilities?

Joseph Goldstein: Yeah, no, I think that’s that’s very true. And it points to two very helpful approaches with regard to that. And one is that it’s very helpful for people who are who are committed to a spiritual path first to, at least for periods of time, have a relationship with a teacher that they really trust, who’s very familiar with the path, the stages of the path and the unfolding. So there can be some guidance and feedback. And the second aspect is I found it very helpful to engage in some study within the tradition because there is a tremendous wealth of teachings within each of these traditions. And a lot of the math has been explained in exquisite detail. But the combination of having, you know, doing some study and having the personal guidance from a teacher really is a safeguard, you know, and keeps us keeps us going straight rather than wandering off.

Rick Archer: Yeah, my former teacher used to emphasize that that intellectual understanding and experience are like two legs, you know, and you really can’t walk without both.

Joseph Goldstein: Most of my teachers had had really mastered both aspects. And I found that so valuable.

Rick Archer: Yeah. In fact, he used to say that intellectual understanding safeguards the path because you then have a sense, like, if we compare it to a roadmap, you know, you don’t end up in Ohio and think you’re in California, you understand? Okay, the map says I’m just in Ohio.

Joseph Goldstein: Exactly. That’s exactly right.

Rick Archer: Yeah. Well, that kind of relates to the next question I had written down. And you kind of answered it, but maybe you can touch on it just a bit more, can a person reliably judge their own attainment? Or is a master necessary to do this?

Joseph Goldstein: Well, that’s an interesting question. I think it’s possible to reliably judge one’s attainment, if one has the right metric of assessment. That’s why going back to my in, you know, initial description of Enlightenment, why I find that particular description so helpful, because it’s not, it’s not about did I reach this state or that state and but rather really look into the mind to see, is there still desire in the mind? Is there still grasping in the mind? Is there still clinging? Is there still a sense of self? Or has that been seen through, so that becomes a very pragmatic mirror to assess, you know, one’s experience, much more so then having some experience, you know, which perhaps is momentary, and perhaps transformative. But then not having context of anything, you know, and not having a way to check back? Okay, well, what actually happened with this, that’s different than, you know, putting a concept on that experience and calling it Enlightenment. Like that mirror like quality of really examining what’s going on in the mind.

Rick Archer: So to do that, then your introspective muscles have to be pretty well developed. And you have to have a sort of a ruthless self honesty to, to really recognize it not not delude yourself.

Joseph Goldstein: Roll Exactly. And that’s I talk a lot about that, in my my last book, mindfulness says in the subtitle is a practical guide to awakening, because it’s really goes through in a lot of detail, the Sati Putana sutra, which is the Buddha’s discourse, on ways of establishing mindfulness, which he called in, in the discourse in the first opening lines, saying this is the direct path to awakening. And even though this SUTA the discourse itself is quite short, there’s a wealth of teachings and descriptions, which provide a possibility for assessing our practice. So yeah, it is possible, but it’s I think it’s also helpful to have feedback from people we respect.

Rick Archer: Yeah. I heard one time I don’t know if this is true, you can correct me, I’ve heard that it was said that in Buddha’s lifetime, maybe 500 of his students or contemporaries became enlightened? I don’t know. But if, if that is true, how do you think it’s going these days in terms in terms of the number of practitioners who become enlightened? And the follow up to that, which, as we’ll ask right now, is, if the numbers are not quite so good, do you feel like perhaps there’s been a dilution or a distortion or misinterpretation of what the Buddha was originally teaching? Or are you confident that what is being taught today in the name of Buddhism? Pretty well? mirrors exactly what what he would have taught I was teaching.

Joseph Goldstein: First. My impression and it is only an impression, since I don’t remember being there at the time of the Buddha might have been off. Not practicing when I shouldn’t have been. But my impression from reading is that there were many, many more enlightened beings than 500. Okay. So but it was much, much more extensive than that. And certainly, many, many more at different stages of Enlightenment. In terms of what’s happening today, there are definitely people who are reaching different, different of these stages of awakening. Probably not as many as in the time of the Buddha for a couple of reasons. One is the Buddha himself was the consummate teacher. You know, he was able to see precisely what a person needed in order to awaken And so the blessing of actually receiving teachings from him would have been enormous. Also the, traditionally, from the Buddhist time and up till now, most people are deeply committed to the practice and on the path to awakening, many of them would choose to be monastics, you know, and that structure, very much supported people’s going to great depths of practice. It’s very interesting now, as the Dharma, you know, has come to the west, at least today, it’s mostly been carried by laypeople. In the lay life, it’s much more challenging, you know, because we’re living with so many responsibilities of family and work and living in the world. Are you married? No, I’m not. Okay,

Rick Archer: so you’ve been a monastic rose

Joseph Goldstein: masticator, either. I’m just an ordinary life person. And even with the simplicity of not being married, but still just being, you know, an ordinary life person, it’s very different than being a monk or a nun, how living structure supports the kind of intensive practice that furthers you no one’s understanding. So it’s not surprising that there may be less people, fewer people going to that same depth. But even with that, there are many people who have really a cane significant levels of understanding and awakening.

Rick Archer: Now, it’s my understanding that in Buddhism, it’s sort of a tradition that you don’t speak much about your own level of awakening, if somebody asked the Dalai Lama, if he’s enlightened, he’ll just sort of give some simple self effacing answer. So it might, if I were to ask you that question, what am I gonna get,

Joseph Goldstein: I would try to find some simple self. Because and this comes right out of the tests with the Buddha, in the discourses, he describes how one should speak of these experiences. And he’s saying that one shouldn’t speak of them with reference to oneself, for a couple of reasons, one is the very, the very nature of the awakening is to see that there is no self, self is a concept and, and so to lay attainment, or to reference attainment to a being to a self already misses the point. And the suggestion that the Buddha made was to speak of it in terms of at different stages of awakening, what what qualities of mind have been purified? And so, you know, in the text to read, as people would declare their attainment, they would say, in one who is an arahant, conceit has been uprooted. Metal

Rick Archer: sort of put it in the third person are

Joseph Goldstein: any claims? Yeah, I think I appreciate that a lot, because we can make all kinds of claims, and they may be accurate, or not accurate. But no one else has the ability to know whether they’re accurate enough, right? So I don’t see what purpose it serves.

Rick Archer: Of course, we refer to the Buddha we say, well, the Buddha was enlightened. And, and obviously, even that, that’s almost as absurd as saying, I am enlightened, because you’re, you know, it’s not like the individual here got something. Right. I mean, but the language itself is kind of structured in a way that it’s hard not to talk like that.

Joseph Goldstein: Well, it is. It is, I just think the Dalai Lama’s approach, I find very appealing.

Rick Archer: Yeah. But, on the other hand, you know, I’ve been doing this show, I’ve spoken to a couple 100 People now and, and my sense is that they’re at all different levels of attainment. But you know, almost universally, they’ll say, Well, you know, I was crossing the street one day and all of a sudden boom, this the whole world fellow fell away, and you know, very many different stories, but they can actually refer they refer to various awakenings or stages of awakening that they had, many of which are not just flashes in the pan, you know, just something that happened on Thursday the 22nd and gone again, but you know, abiding states, or stages resulted from those shifts or those shifts who are harbingers of abiding states, however you want to put it. So the disunity a lot of people waking up around the world? No, I think I think that’s true. Yeah. From all kinds of traditions. You know, some people who had done intensive practice others who never practiced and all of a sudden boom, something happened.

Joseph Goldstein: No, I think that’s very true. And we hear stories was like five all the time. And it’s wonderful because often they’re very transformative. It’s just that we can never really know from the outside what the boom is.

Rick Archer: Exactly. Yeah.

Joseph Goldstein: You know, we just know there was a boom,

Rick Archer: yeah, something happened,

Joseph Goldstein: something happened. And then that’s why I like to go back to the measure. Well, how is this manifesting in behavior? How is this manifesting in qualities of heart and mind that still remain? That to me is more important than just the boom?

Rick Archer: Yeah, no, I really liked that. In fact, one of my questions here from my friend was Houston Smith, that said many times that traits matter more than states by which he means that compassionate and moral traits of behavior matter more than elevated states of consciousness, although the two may be interrelated, which is better and more valuable to the world, a person experiencing mindfulness or a Red Cross worker.

Joseph Goldstein: I don’t see those two as being contradictory.

Rick Archer: No, I don’t either.

Joseph Goldstein: But I really liked what he said about traits versus states. First, because there are many powerful, refined states of consciousness, you know, which can bring enormous power and, and a tremendously subtle, which, from at least the Buddhist perspective on not necessarily Enlightenment, not necessarily awakening. And so it becomes very challenging to discern the difference between what might be powerful states powerful experiences, and the freedom that comes from from liberation. So it’s very tricky to assess these, especially from the outside.

Rick Archer: Yeah, in the Ramayana, you know, the the demon that the evil the bad guy, rather than a was was said to have had tremendous attainment, you know, he was a master of the Vedas and had all these cities and he was incredibly charismatic, and just all this stuff. But you know, he was, he was definitely a bad guy, bad guy causing trouble. Yeah.

Joseph Goldstein: So that’s why I think the traits are important. And I just like to qualify that a little bit. To, to be looking to see, the traits or the behavior or how people are in the world doesn’t imply that awakening or Enlightenment is going to always look the same way. You know, we have very different personalities, and our understanding will be expressed through those personalities. So it’s not a cookie cutter mold of awakening. And having studied with quite a few different teachers, I came to appreciate that, because they were also different. And it was very freeing to realize that I didn’t have to become a certain way, you know, I could express my understanding to my own personality. So it was it was very liberating to see that,

Rick Archer: you feel that although the external appearance and behavior of various people is naturally going to be different, since you know, variety is the spice of life, and we’re all different. But do you feel that if you had like, you know, 100 enlightened people in a room, despite all their surface differences, if you could somehow step inside their eyes, so to speak, step inside their body and experiences the world as they experience it, that there will be a fundamental similarity among them all, in terms of a certain kind of quality of the of the enlightened state

Joseph Goldstein: is a good possibility that there would be of course, different traditions may be calling different states Enlightenment, right? And so again, Hmong would really have to know, if people had similar experiences, then I think their internal reality would reflect that.

Rick Archer: Their internal reality Yeah,

Joseph Goldstein: we don’t really know whether the experiences that they’re calling awakening were the same.

Rick Archer: Yeah, I guess the reason I keep dwelling on this from different angles is, you know, I do consider it an important thing. For some reason, I feel like, you know, if we had litmus tests of Enlightenment, or awakening, and its various stages, if they were kind of more of a universally understood roadmap, like you say that Theravada Buddhism has, it would be useful. For instance, I mean, one characteristic that I often come across is that people who have had an abiding awakening, mean pure awareness or self, I don’t like the word self as a Buddhist, but awareness is maintained 24/7 throughout sleep, it’s never lost. And then there are other things, you know, refined perception eventually comes along, and one begins to sort of apprehend the subtle levels of creation, which were previously what previously ones attention was just on the gross. So I don’t know the things like this and perhaps 1000 years from now our cultural if things go well, and we’ve survived, will, you know, this kind of roadmap we’re under Standing will be more or less matter of fact, it’ll be taught in the schools and there’ll be kind of a more universally agreed upon understanding of what this whole thing is all about.

Joseph Goldstein: It’s possible. And again, different different traditions might emphasize different aspects of the map, rather than rather than contemplate the end result, I think it’s more helpful to look at the beginning stages of awakening, where more people are likely to have had these experiences. And to see it in terms. And this also comes right out of the texts of the Tera Vaada. And the Pali canon. One of the qualities that said are a couple of colleagues that said to manifest at the first level of Enlightenment stream entry, that people become more generous. They’re free from the taint of stinginess, that their ethical behavior is unbroken. So these are very, it’s a very pragmatic down to earth expressions of what awakening means, you know, if you have some fantastic meditative experience, and is still stingy and hoarding and breaking, you know, ethical behaviors. So it might call into question, what was that experience really about? What was the transformation? That’s what I like, bring it down to earth

Rick Archer: like that, too. So you’d probably say that those who want to cut Social Security and Medicare and eliminate tax breaks, tax taxes for the rich are probably not stream entry stage? Maybe not. Yeah, well, just I have another line of questioning to get into but just to dwell on this a little bit more. So the correlation between ethical behavior and Enlightenment or degrees of Enlightenment? Do you feel it’s fairly tight? Could a person advanced quite far in their Enlightenment, their inner development? And yet, the the ethical behavior has not really caught up with that? Or could a person be ethically, you know, quite saintly, and yet not have too much going on in terms of Inner Awakening? Or do the two pretty much go hand in hand?

Joseph Goldstein: This little more complexity, I think, in the question, okay. It’s it’s definitely possible that people have a very refined ethical norm, and may not be awakened. Right. So I think I think that’s possible

Rick Archer: Mother Teresa, for instance, it lamented that she felt like she had not really realized what the inner experience Yeah.

Joseph Goldstein: In terms of whether it’s somebody who genuinely is awake, and whether the ethical commitment, and the living of it, you know, follows along, I think to, to a certain extent, it has to, you know, if if somebody is claiming to be awakened, then is going around being dishonest and cheating and killing and stealing. It’s, I would definitely raised some questions in my mind, about what what was that Enlightenment about? That being said, the key to determining the ethical behavior is really the motive behind the action. You know, and so I can see the possibility of some actions looking a certain way from the outside, but the motive being quite different. So motive might be wholesome. But to the outside, it might look a little question questionable. Yeah, this is very tricky, because it’s easy to rationalize unskillful behavior by claiming pure motive, right? I just don’t want to exclude that possibility. It’s like one of the expressions in Tibetan Buddhism is that it’s very powerful. They talk about wrathful compassion. wrathful. Yes. So, you know, so might manifest is a lot of wrath, that strong vydra energy that might look from the outside as being unskillful. But actually, the motivation might be compassion to help awaken somebody.

Rick Archer: Yeah, there’s some well known teachers who have behaved that way a lot. Exactly.

Joseph Goldstein: But like, a lot of care is needed, because I say, it’s easy to rationalize unskillful behavior. Yeah. By laying claim to pure motives. So we really need to be very clear and honest with ourselves, you know, of what our motivation naturally is.

Rick Archer: Yeah. And there have been some egregious examples of teachers who did all kinds of crazy stuff and just sort of wrote it off as rationalized it, as you know, the devil made me do it. Yeah, more like, kind of like, I’m beyond all this, and I’m not really doing this and you know, that whole thing, we’re pretty people are familiar with it. And then of course, ethics is also a very cultural thing. You know, in some cultures, it’s polygamy is totally normal and acceptable, and various other things that other different cultures might consider totally wrong. So it’s it gets kind of gray area,

Joseph Goldstein: in some respects, but the basic, like the basic, five precepts in Buddhism, are pretty basic. I mean, it’s not killing, and it’s not stealing, and it’s not causing harm through sexuality. It’s not getting diluted through intoxicants. I’m not lying.

Rick Archer: Yeah, I think those should be pretty universal. Yeah, you’re right. There was an interesting, I read an interesting article by David Loy the other night, you know, David Loy. It was an article entitled, why Buddhism and the West need each other. And that essential point of the article was that neither individual freedom nor political freedom alone are sufficient to eliminate dukkha, both are needed. And he kind of gave examples of how, you know, person could be individually free, but in a very repressive society, in which there was a lot of suffering because of the social policies. And you know, that on the other hand, one could be in a very kind of progressive liberated society, and yet be full of greed and, you know, personal traits that weren’t really very commendable. So give me comments on his premise.

Joseph Goldstein: I think that the way people’s practice and how they manifest, you know, their understanding their awakening, I think there’s a broad broad spectrum, that’s possible. And a lot depends on individual interests, and talents, and motivations. So for example, for many people, compassion will be manifest as social engagement, you know, and really addressing those suffering in society. Other people might well be sitting in a cave, you know, and, but sitting there with the motivation, of what’s called bodhichitta, you know, practicing in order to awaken, or so I think, for example, of the Buddha in his many previous lifetimes, as, as the stories go, you know, he would be living off by himself as a hermit. And you just see, kind of imagine his family’s thinking, What’s this guy doing, he’s not helping anybody. And he’s just off by himself in a cave. And yet the fruit of his practice, because was motivated. Let me awaken for the benefit of all. So his Enlightenment isn’t the combination of his practice. We’re talking here today, 2600 years later, because of what he did. Yeah. And so I am, I’m reluctant to take too narrow a sliver of life and say, Oh, this is more compassionate or less compassionate. You know, we have to look at the big picture and really examine the motivation. And then it will manifest in many different ways. And I think there’s, there’s a beauty in that. Yeah. I like that one way to be

Rick Archer: right. So you know, just according to one’s Dharma one might be reclusive one might be very engaged. But yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Joseph Goldstein: And especially given not perhaps many people listening to this may or may not believe in rebirth and past lives and all that. But within the Buddhist context and teachings, it’s certainly taught. And so if one takes that very expansive view, then whole lifetimes could be spent. Either engaged, you know, society, or is it reckless? And it’s just part of a much bigger picture.

Rick Archer: Yeah, it kind of learning the lessons you need to learn as you go along. And someone else’s say that, even while sitting in the cave and not interacting with anyone, on a subtle level, one could be radiating an influence, not just like, you’re preparing for some future lifetime, where you’re going to be a great teacher, but even then in there, you’re reading it at an influence, which is helping a lot people. Exactly. Yeah, I think that’s exactly right. It’s true. That there have been sort of studies of groups of large groups of meditators, you know, 1000s at a time sitting in one place, and they’ve correlated it with changes in crime rate and so on in the vicinity. So let’s talk about mindfulness a little bit, which, well first of all, what what is the mind?

Joseph Goldstein: The mind, again, this goes back to particular Buddhist teachings and particularly as it’s talked about in the ABI Dama, which is the Buddhist psychology, you know, and this is a very elaborate sophisticated analysis of consciousness and all the different mental qualities. So the mind within this framework is taken to be basically back which knows it’s the cognizing faculty. So it’s just bear knowing. Now this knowing doesn’t arise by itself, it arises in combination with a lot of different mental qualities. In Buddhist jargon. They’re called mental factors. So it’s consciousness, unknowing arising, flavor or colored by a whole assortment of different mental qualities and some are wholesome or unwholesome is greed is a mental factor. Love is a mental factor. Mindfulness is a mental factor. So each one is just functioning in their own way.

Rick Archer: So then mindfulness is an attentiveness to what is at hand and I’m going to ask you to define it because I’m totally a neophyte in that tradition. But how do you find mindfulness?

Joseph Goldstein: It’s an important question, especially these days, because mindfulness is getting such a wide play now. Yeah, it’s amazing. You know, where mindfulness is propping up.

Rick Archer: I saw I gotta interject, I saw this funny cartoon Welbeck ahead. A Buddhist guy was standing up on a soapbox, and there was a bunch of monks in the audience. And he had a megaphone, he was a what do we want? And they said, mindfulness. When do we want it now? Sorry about that outburst to it. So we were talking about mindfulness, and you’re about to define it more before my little cartoon joke.

Joseph Goldstein: It’s interesting summit, I was sitting at a center in the step dining room, and just over the lunch table, somebody asked me, Well, can you define mindfulness in just a few words, you know, and, you know, words like phrases like living in the present, or being attentive to the present moment, are what come to mind. But asking, what is mindfulness is, it’s a little bit like asking what is art? What is love? You know, it’s not the the word, although very simple, and even prosaic, and English has a wealth of meanings. And so I’ll just give a few examples of what it is and what it isn’t. Okay, now, you can say mindfulness is living in the present moment. But that is really not enough. Because one of one of my favorite examples is you’re familiar with, like black labs, Golden Retrievers share these amazingly playful, friendly dogs running around. They are living in the present moment. But they don’t look like into mindful, literally being led around by the nose.

Rick Archer: They’re in a state of excitation. For one thing. I mean, there’s

Joseph Goldstein: so much in the present, yeah, it’s not mindfulness. And so I call that quality of mind black lab consciousness, to distinguish it. So then we might say, well, Mindfulness means the observing power of the mind, you know, so we’re really observing what’s happening, as it’s happening.

Rick Archer: Well, black lab is doing that. Well, I

Joseph Goldstein: don’t think there’s much observation, you know, like a stepping back and knowing what’s in there completely. I mean, not remembering my black lab life. I’m just saying what it looks like from the outside, but basically pretty identified with what’s going on, there’s not a lot of doesn’t seem to be a lot of self reflection, you know, right. So when I say that observing power of the mind is like that, stepping back, and knowing that we know, rather than simply knowing. But even that is not complete. That’s not enough for mindfulness, because we can be observing something through a filter of various mental factors. For example, if we’re observing something through the filter of desire, or through the filter of anger, and we’re not aware of that. So we’re observing what’s happening, but we’re not being mindful. So mindfulness is yet something else. Again, it’s not just being in the present. It’s not just observing what’s in the present. It’s observing it in a particular way, is being aware of what’s arising, but without greed or attachment, without aversion or condemning, and without delusion without being identified with it. So that’s a very particular kind of awareness. And right there kind of leads At least the understanding of mindfulness into an ethical dimension. Because mindfulness is always a wholesome state of mind, because it’s free of greed, and free of aversion. So then we open up this whole ethical dimension to the practice of mindfulness. So very rich, this is not a, it’s not a superficial quality of mine.

Rick Archer: So is mindfulness, something that it sounds like from what you’re saying that mindfulness is something that not only would be practiced in meditation, but would be practiced during all one’s waking hours?

Joseph Goldstein: Absolutely. I mean, that’s, that’s really the goal, um, people come on retreat, or do a daily practice, as a way of strengthening that factor. So, so it is operative throughout our lives. And it’s, it’s a tremendous blessing. I mean, the more mindful we are, the less we suffer.

Rick Archer: And I’m sure it wouldn’t be a good place for practice. But could a well established practitioner be doing mindfulness just just fine on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange?

Joseph Goldstein: I think they could if they were quite well established. It might be difficult. I don’t think I’d start there. Right.

Rick Archer: Right. Yeah. That’s kind of why it might be good to do some retreats there. Why, as you said earlier, the monks had I said, have an advantage with their, with their lifestyle, whatever environment, yeah, less impact of the senses all the time. But the idea

Joseph Goldstein: very much is to integrate this ability, this, this power that we develop into our lives.

Rick Archer: In, I know, in Hindu Hindu tradition, the analogy of a movie screen is used a lot where you have the flat white screen, and then all the images of the movie are playing on it. And they overshadow the screen so that as you’re watching the movie, you forget the screen is there and you’re just engaged in all the changing, changing images. But if somehow, let’s say the light from behind the screen could be increased or something, you might begin to see the screen as a continuum, you know, which the changing images couldn’t overshadow? Does that analogy kind of fit in with the mindfulness thing or not at all?

Joseph Goldstein: Yes, it does. I’d like to use that image and bring it back to your first questions about Enlightenment and awakening, and what happens to the light? If there’s no screen on it, for which on it to land? No, it’s because screen already has reified consciousness into something. A bit too solid, knows if there’s a thing there. And so it’s a useful, it’s a useful image, because one of the things we see in meditation a lot, you know, we’re sitting, maybe feeling our breath, feeling our body, and then we get caught up in the movies of our minds, we get caught up in all the thoughts and feelings and images, not realizing that they’re just thoughts were caught in the story of the movie get absorbed. A lot of the time. And so sitting back and realizing that it’s just the movie is a powerful awakening, now we’re, we’re coming out from being lost. But in terms of the realization of what goes even beyond the mind, so I’ll just give you an example. For us to be aware of light, the light has to land on something. And it can be even something as subtle as air or particles of dust in the air, but there has to be something on which it lands for us to become aware of both of the object and of the life. So if we were staring out into outer space, you know, like be going into outer space. We wouldn’t be aware of the light even though the light was being radiated. So in that case, you could say the light is unmanifest. The from the Buddhist perspective, and especially in Theravada. Nirvana where the enlightened state is unmanifest, unborn unformed. And so it’s that image of light being projected. Is it landing on something in which case we were not blaming on anything, in which case, we experienced the unmanifest quality. So that’s, that’s just a little footnote to our opening discussion.

Rick Archer: Yeah, that makes sense. And would it be true to say that the just got distracted because my earphones were feeding that would have Be true to say that with sufficient integration and development, whether one is entertaining, sensory experience or not, then this this light to use the metaphorical term is, is continuous, that nothing overshadows that or can overshadow it at a certain stage. And that and that there could be states in meditation or even even sleep for that matter where there’s no sensory experience whatsoever, no mental activity, no thoughts. And yet that light of I don’t know if you’d like to say consciousness, but that inner light is sustained continuously, and and then engaged in dynamic activity, very same state, it’s just that there’s happens to be activity also.

Joseph Goldstein: Yeah, I think I think that the freedom of mind of an enlightened being a fully enlightened being, is not constrained by whether there’s activity or not activity. I’m a little hesitant to, to give, give too much weight to the particular metaphors that we use to describe it. Yeah, but in terms of understanding that the freedom of mind is not limited to, you know, sitting still correct, freedom of mind is the same, whatever one’s doing,

Rick Archer: I’m always a little thrown by the use of the word mind. Because to me in mind, as you say, it’s a faculty. And so it denotes a kind of a, an activity of some sort. And, and as an activity, it’s it sounds individuated. And, and I think of freedom as something which is non individuated in its nature, and mind, like the ocean, and whereas mine is more like a wave on the ocean, to not throw another metaphor into the mix.

Joseph Goldstein: These discussions are interesting, just because both between us and also in the various traditions. We use words, we might be using the same words to mean different things. And so it really takes a lot of care to define how we’re using a particular word,

Rick Archer: or different different words to mean the same thing by the same. Yeah, exactly. I just listened to it and discussion that took place at the science and non duality conference Cina to Rupert Spira, and ah, almost an air that heated debate for 45 minutes. And I thought, Oh, my God, they’re saying the same thing. Come on, guys. I mean, you’re actually saying the same thing. You’re just trying to say it in different words. You know, there’s one of the first verses in the Yoga Sutras is something like yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. Yogas Chitta, Vritti Nirodha. So when I, so far, when I’ve heard mindfulness described, it’s sort of like an attendance to various sensations, you know, the breath or whatever it one is attentive to something, which to me implies that the mind is still active and engaged and fluctuating. I mean, ultimately, are ideally is the is the purpose of mindfulness to have even that activity settled down into a more kind of an unmanifest. State.

Joseph Goldstein: Yes. Okay. Mindfulness, mindfulness. The Buddha taught mindfulness as being the path to that. I see. So it’s a very pragmatic, skillful means to that opening of what you could call the uninformed, or the unconditioned or the unborn. That’s the culmination of the Path of Mindfulness.

Rick Archer: And is that something that one would hope, only hope to experience after many years of practice? Or is it the kind of thing that even from the beginning, one would have dip into momentarily, but perhaps it gets more sustained and clearer over time?

Joseph Goldstein: For most people, I think it comes, you know, as as the result of some increasing depth of meditation practice and skills, but that there are some people who have, for whatever reason, you know, some back maybe from past lives, or who knows, but who just have an ability to open to that unconditioned state more quickly. That’s rare, although it can and does happen. Yeah, mostly, it happens through training. I mean, if somebody you know, like, most people have to really practice if they want to learn to play musical instrument. Sure. Every once in a while, there’s a Mozart,

Rick Archer: right. Yeah, very rarely. Yeah. It can’t happen. So you mentioned that mindfulness is something that one might engage in 24/7, or at least during one’s waking hours. I can see how, you know, the state which people are ordinarily engaged is really not very desirable. I mean, you’re, you’re walking down the street looking at your cell phone, you know, and, and this, the mind is sort of scattered in every direction. Fact, there’s a verse in The Gita, which says, Many I forget, How can I forget that? In any case? So my it seems it would seem that mindfulness is very desirable. One is, you know, focused on the experience at hand rather than being fragmented in every direction. But does that take effort? And if so, does does it sort of in a way, paradoxically, divide the mind where let’s say you’re trying to do something? And yet at the same time, there’s this effort to be mindful? So it’s like you’re doing two things at the same time?

Joseph Goldstein: Yeah. Both two different questions. Now, generally, in the beginning, it does take some effort to be mindful, because the habit of online is to be distracted. And so just the effort to see that the mind is distracted, and to come back, you know, again, and again and again, until, until that factor, the quality of mindfulness is strengthened, so that it starts working more by itself doesn’t take

Rick Archer: the kind of second nature, exactly like riding a bicycle, you have to really pay attention when you’re first learning after a while. It’s,

Joseph Goldstein: yeah, that’s exactly right. The your second point is a very interesting point in a deepening understanding of mindfulness, because very often, and this is a result, a lot of the language we use in talking about meditation and mindfulness, we use a lot of watching language. No, say watch the breath, notice the breath. And so the language is is a kind of dualistic language, we’re physic, we’re outside the experience tracking it. It’s not the best language that describes the actual experience. And I’ve been encouraging people to, to think of it more as feeling what’s happening rather than watching it. Because watching is from the outside, feeling it is from the inside. And so then mindfulness just becomes rich. If you’ll indulge me if we just do one little experiment. Sure, yeah. If you just move your, you know, from side to side, but move it and just feel the movement. Okay. Can you feel it moving? Is that simple? Yeah, that’s my, that’s mindfulness. So it’s not complicated when we in that feeling mode. If we’re in the watching mode, then it would be more effortful. It would be like this. Isn’t we’re trying to hold on to it? Yeah, I mean, the feeling mode, it’s effortless. Take some training. To have the mind remember that.

Rick Archer: I remembered that Gita verse it was for for endlessly, for many branched and endlessly diverse or the intellects of the irresolute. But the but the resolute intellect is one pointed.

Joseph Goldstein: That’s great.

Rick Archer: Yeah. I read something, I think it was, in your book where you were quoting someone else as as advocating a very sort of gentle, effortless approach to this whole thing. There’s there’s not a lot of brow furrowing and teeth clenching? There’s not a lot of it’s very kind of a gentle, sort of effortless process. Is that correct? Well, it

Joseph Goldstein: is, you know, the Buddha talked a lot about right effort and what it means and the example he used, which is kind of a classic image. He talked about tuning the strings of a lute. Yeah, and to get good music. The strings have been neither be too tight, or too loose. And that’s really what we have to learn in meditation. It’s an art. You know, it’s, it’s really learning with the mind and awareness. Are we too tight? are we struggling? We’re striving, we’re getting tense. So then we have to relax. Are we so relaxed, that we’ve become very casual? You know, we’re really not connected to what’s happening. So then we have to bring it in a little closer. And this is a continual dance. Yeah, it’s not that we find just the right balance, and then we’re there. This is something that we pay attention to. Just throughout the course of the day. Yeah. Is it right effort, or not? Are we off balance one way or another?

Rick Archer: That’s like the bicycle, good bicycle route or you don’t get to stop balancing. You keep doing it. But it becomes sort of as effortless thing. Yeah,

Joseph Goldstein: yeah. And it’s interesting, you know, it’s part of learning about oneself. Are we the kind of person who is over striving, you know, grasping, self judgmental. So if we’re conditioned in that way, then relaxation is really important. If on the other hand, we’re the kind of person who’s really lazy and slothful, and doesn’t want to make effort to frame in rousing a kind of a heroic energy, okay, let me do this. So then that’s appropriate. So there’s a lot of self knowledge. And

Rick Archer: that’s a good point. Yeah, different strokes for different folks. Okay. There, I read somewhere in your book, as you said, we kind of talked about this, but it might be helpful to throw it in again, morality is the foundation without it, it’s like trying to roll a boat without untying it from the dock.

Joseph Goldstein: Exactly. Because when we’re committed some of the time we’re committed to ethical behavior, then that frees the mind from remorse. If we if we’re living alive, continually doing unethical things, that’s when we start meditating, then all of this stuff comes to mind. And it’s very disturbing, very difficult to concentrate. So as soon as not that we’ve all done plenty of unskillful things in the past, but from the time we’re committed to a basic foundation of morality, that brings a certain ease and peace of mind, that can be built on from that as a foundation, then it’s easier to concentrate, easier to develop inside. So it’s, it’s pretty essential.

Rick Archer: Somebody, I’m sorry, go ahead,

Joseph Goldstein: there’s a kind of inner beauty to it. And that was like, the Buddha talked to have this kind of quality of non harming as being the inner beauty of a person. You know, our culture was so focused on the outer beauty. But these are the qualities of heart and mind and much more important.

Rick Archer: Somebody used the analogy of, you know, engaging in spiritual practice without sort of ethical standard is kind of like trying to fill a bathtub without plugging the drain, you know, water is coming in, but water is going out.

Joseph Goldstein: So I think especially as, as the these practices come to the west, I think it’s really important and that this foundation is understood.

Rick Archer: Yeah. Somebody came to my town recently and gave a presentation about the Buddha boy, you know, that kid in Nepal, or wherever it was, it sat on your feet for six years, and didn’t eat or sleep or drink or anything? Um, do you think that’s for real? And I think about that?

Joseph Goldstein: I don’t I remember vaguely reading about it. But I have no idea

Rick Archer: kind of hailing Him as the new messiah of the east or something.

Joseph Goldstein: I don’t think those manifestations are necessarily the signs of awakening, as unusual as they are. Yeah, I think one of the things I’ve learned, and I think has stood me in good stead over these many years is realization that I that I don’t have to have an opinion about things I know nothing about.

Rick Archer: Yeah, that’s good. Yeah, I mean, I respect that and appreciate it. I just thought I’d throw it out to see if he knew anything about it.

Joseph Goldstein: It’s an interesting story. Yeah, who knows, right?

Rick Archer: A couple more questions. From my friend here, they’re a little bit long, but it might be worthwhile reading them, and then maybe we’ll be wrapping it up a little bit after that. But here’s one, he says, if this is something you know nothing about, then we’ll just move on. But it is the gulf between Hindus and Buddhists on the issue of Atman versus Notman. Really all that significant. Hindus define the absolute quality and this substrate of all existence as Brahman, and since that is what underlies each of us, they also term it, the Atman the essence of our essential of our existence, and therefore our true self quote unquote. Although it is not our personal property are exclusive to us, it has no characteristics of our individual identity, which most both which members of both religions see us in permanent, it is simply the root of all being including ours. My Jana Buddhist describe the absolute quality of a substrate of all existence as Dharma Datu or Dharmakaya of the Buddha, his unmanifest formulas essential quote body unquote, that is synonymous with Tata or suchness. To the educated outsider, when the historical figure of the Buddha is called Tata gotta the one who has gone to that the that to which he is gone sounds very much synonymous with the Battle of Hinduism is expression Tomasi, you are that? What is the non negotiable difference? Set of an academic question with As an academic guy,

Joseph Goldstein: and I’m not, and so I’m going to plead, not knowing.

Rick Archer: Okay, take the fifth,

Joseph Goldstein: exactly. Because I really haven’t done a study of Hinduism either scholastically or in practice. And so it would be very hard to kind of, okay, what’s really meant by all that?

Rick Archer: Here’s one that speaks more to Buddhism. This is his final question. In your book, one Dharma, you tried to create a sense of common ground between the various Buddhist traditions that Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana. By claiming that if we dig down to the essence of each of them, we find a common core. However, when you describe this common core, there was no element of it that would No, not here, he gets into Hinduism, there’s no element of it that would exempt Advaita Hinduism from this one dharma. You so answer this, if you can, but otherwise, maybe just comment on the first part of the question. Do you see some kind of firewall between Buddhists and Neo Advaita Hinduism in the US today? By as practiced by various famous examples? And if there isn’t an impenetrable barrier between the two traditions from sharing one Dharma, aren’t we talking about the perennial philosophy? Do you believe in the perennial philosophy?

Joseph Goldstein: I mean, I can really only speak with any degree of confidence at all within the Buddhist tradition. Yeah. And even that’s very broad. So that’s

Rick Archer: the first part of the question that within the Buddhist tradition, do you see a kind of a common core among the various branches?

Joseph Goldstein: I do? I do. And there’s one phrase that is found in a lot in Tera, Vaada Buddhism, but it’s found also in Mahayana, and Adrianna. And I think it just gets to the, to the very bottom line of what all these practices are about, where it says liberation through non clinging. And it’s just so simple and so direct, that all the different methods and all the different teachings and methodologies and practices are all in the service of non clinging. And part of that non clinging is non clinging to the idea of self, some individual self. And part of the manifestation of that non clinging is that it manifests as compassion. No, in this, there’s a famous teaching by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche was a great, great soldier and master of the last century, he said, When we realize the empty nature of phenomena, we realize the selfless nature, the energy to bring about the good of others, Don’s uncontrived, and effortless. And so I love that it’s like it’s understanding from that place of not clinging to anything, not to the body, not to the mind, not to awareness, not the consciousness, the mind free of any clinging at all. But there’s that real emptiness of self manifests as compassion as responsiveness. And so I love the frame of compassion being the activity of emptiness. Yeah, and that, to me, brings the central elements of all the traditions together.

Rick Archer: Do you feel that that is so because if there’s clinging, then there’s sort of a selfishness inherent in that there’s an individuation there’s a sort of a myopia a narrowness and and if that can be relinquished, then kind of one’s more universal nature is able to flow forth and shine forth. And, I mean, we’re all kind of wired to cling, you know, I mean, from from our infancy when we want our Bible when we want our toy, and we want this and that.

Joseph Goldstein: Well, just just this is the is why mindfulness is the key because mindfulness is the method, you know of practice that frees the mind from it, the conditions, that very deep habit of clinging, and that’s how it works. And that’s why it’s the vehicle leading us to the goal.

Rick Archer: And I think you said before that that conditioning is multi layered, it goes deep, you know, very, very deep, right? And so it has to be kind of peeled like an onion. There’s layer after layer,

Joseph Goldstein: after layer and moment after moment.

Rick Archer: Yeah. Great. Well, that was pretty comprehensive discussion. Is there anything you feel like is dear to your heart that we haven’t you know, through My negligence we haven’t really touched upon that, you know, you kind of really know what kind of excites you or interests you that we want to just throw in.

Joseph Goldstein: I think we’ve covered a lot. And just I’m glad we ended where we did, because I feel that that union, understanding the union of compassion and emptiness is just such a beautiful, simple expression of the path and unfreedom and of awakening. Like that brings together just the essential elements. And I think this is what’s found in certainly the different Buddhist traditions, yeah, and perhaps many others as well. So I think that’s a good, good place to close.

Rick Archer: And it’s nice because sometimes, the striving for Enlightenment seems to have a self indulgent quality to it, you know, people who people are sometimes looked upon as just being narcissistic or self obsessed, because they’re sort of so keen on their inner state, you know, coloring their experience. But you know, what you’re saying is that the the outcome of it, if it’s successful is kind of a turning around and over my cup, my cup runneth over.

Joseph Goldstein: And also that just what you’re saying points to one teaching, which is emphasized a lot in the Tibetan tradition, and Mahayana. And is there implicitly in Theravada? Well, it’s not expressed so explicitly. And that is the whole teaching of bodhichitta, which is the aspiration that we practice and we awaken for the benefit of all. Yeah, and I found that a very powerful addition to my Tera Vaada practice, that’s like, before that I knew and I understood that, you know, our practice will inevitably help others. If we’re less greedy, and less angry and more generous and more loving, obviously, everyone is going to be benefit. But to put that motivation upfront, not to see it simply as the byproduct of the practice, but to make it the motivation up front, you know, may my practice be for the welfare, will, that edit a tremendous richness to how I and others undertake the practice. And again, that’s that’s bringing, bringing the compassion aspect, right into the heart of what we’re doing.

Rick Archer: Imagine what our society would be like, if everyone’s orientation all you know, all the millions of us were, you know, for the welfare of others.

Joseph Goldstein: Exactly. would be very different.

Rick Archer: Yeah. I mean, one way of putting it as if people come together just to take, then no one receives because both are just taking but if people come together to give, then everyone receives, exactly. There was a story in some Vedic scripture, where the, for some reason the gods and the demons all had their arms taught, taught, you know, that story, their arms are tied with a splint, so they couldn’t bend at the elbow. And the demon starved to death because they couldn’t feed themselves to the gods realized they could feed each other. Exactly. Yeah, nice. Okay, though, that is a sweet note to end on. And I think you’re a nice example of the principle now you’ve dedicated your life to giving to others. And that’s really commendable. Yeah, thank you, Joseph. Let me just make a couple of concluding remarks that I always make. The interview you’ve been listening to is part of an ongoing series than over 200 of them now and there’s a new one each week. You can find them Bat gap. And they’re also you’ll well, and you’re there, you’ll find the alphabetical listing of them at chronological listing of them. And you’ll also find this discussion group that crops up around each interview will be one for this interview. There is a donate button, which I appreciate people clicking, there is a place to sign up to be notified by email each time a new interview is posted. There’s a link to an audio podcast. And incidentally, regarding the audio podcast, I just discovered that Apple gives much greater prominence to podcasts that have more stars and reviews. And I’ve only got two reviews one positive one negative, and about seven people have clicked on stars. So if you if you sign up for this, or if you click on that podcast link, you’ll you’ll be taken to a page where you can say subscribe, and it’ll take it into iTunes and there you’ll see a reviews button. If you click on that. You can click on the stars hopefully five and leave review if you like and it’ll help this be sort of more recommended within the iTunes podcasts thing. So thanks for doing that. So thanks for listening or watching and we will see Next week