Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of interviews with spiritually awakening people. I’ve done over 500 of them now over the last nearly 10 years, and if this happens to be new to you and you’d like to check out some of the older ones, some of the previous ones, please go to batgap.com, B-A-T-G-A-P, and look under the past interviews menu. This program is made possible by the support of appreciative listeners and viewers. If you appreciate it and would like to support it, there’s a PayPal button on every page of the site. My guest today is Justin Gold. Here’s a brief bio of Justin. Justin has been assisting people in their search for inner meaning for 35 years. He is currently living in the Sierra foothills of northern California where he works with several dozen seekers of truth. Over the years, he has deliberately resisted the trend to become a traveling guru with thousands of followers in favor of preserving an element that he considers precious that of maintaining opportunities for developing a meaningful teacher-student relationship. He is available to anyone who seeks his guidance and asks for no payment in return. So, Justin, have you had opportunities to become a traveling guru with thousands of followers, or you just didn’t ever put yourself in that position?
Justin: I both never put myself in that position, but certainly when a person reads it, writes a book, those opportunities arise. And the first book that I wrote was, which was about 20 years ago, 20 years ago, a lot of those opportunities arose, and I basically resisted them.
Rick: I think as people learn as we get into this interview, you know, you’ve been a serious spiritual practitioner, if you want to call it that, for many, many years, and you didn’t rush into teaching by any means. You know, it’s something that sort of happened after you had really paid some dues, so to speak. And I think that’s a good thing. I think a lot of times people have some kind of an awakening and they rush into teaching, and things don’t always go so well for them or for their students.
Justin: Well, teaching itself is a learning process, and I think that I would not have even entered the process had I not been told to do so at a time when I thought that it would be very unlikely for me to make that move. I had just gotten comfortable with being with myself and being by myself, and then I was told by a mentor to go put my picture on some posters and stick them on the walls at the University of Oregon, and I did that. And it was uncomfortable and challenging, and I got by the first few months with a lot of marijuana. But sooner or later, I got the hang of it, and the only instructions I had were, “Don’t present yourself as being more than you are, and be honest and recognize that you have a ways to go as well, but you’re a few steps ahead of the people you’re running into.”
Rick: Yeah, it’s a good attitude. You know, it’s kind of like that, I don’t know if that’s what they mean by it in Zen, but the beginner’s mind idea. And some spiritual teachers, to their credit, say something like, “It’s always good to have the attitude of a beginner. Don’t consider yourself to be some lofty person that’s far beyond the people that may come to you for tutelage.”
Justin: I had some interesting input at the time from an acquaintance I had, a friend I had was quite a well-known Tibetan Buddhist teacher. And I was living on some land in Oregon near Eugene, and he called me and asked me if he could use the land for a ceremony he wanted to have. I don’t remember the name of the ceremony, but some ceremonies, some visitors were coming from Tibet, and he wanted to put on a ceremony. And he had definitely adapted his methods, and they were not traditionally Tibetan anymore. There were a lot of additions that he made, and he was quite well-known. And I asked him, “Why would you still involve yourself in a traditional ceremony? So much of what you do is different.” And he said, “Well, you can’t be sure.”
Rick: “Can’t be sure it’s different?”
Justin: “No, you can’t be sure that it’s not something you missed. You can’t be sure that something you left behind isn’t the something that you still need.” And I remember that. The whole idea that you have the complete idea of what needs to be done is just waiting for you to find out that you don’t. So, I took that to heart and I still do.
Rick: Yeah, that’s a good point. I do talk to people sometimes who seem very sure of certain things, and sometimes they seem to have had some kind of genuine awakening and their awakening actually seems to view them with even greater certainty. It kind of fuels a certain adamancy about whatever they happen to think. And they become fundamentalists in a way, even though I think they’ve actually got something experientially.
Justin: Yeah, well, if we made up the game, we could be sure of how it’s played, but we clearly didn’t make it up, so we clearly can’t be sure how it’s played.
Rick: Yeah. Do you still smoke marijuana?
Justin: Rarely, but from time to time. But I have a great regard for it and what its capacity is. I also recognize that it’s a little bit like dynamite. It can be used to create tunnels, which are great. It can be used to be able to injure people, which is terrible. So, marijuana, there has to be a lot of understanding about the use of marijuana, that it can supply a forevision of what’s possible. But anything that can supply a forevision of what’s possible can also be an addictive way to lean on it for those perpetual forevisions. So I’m careful with it, but I do recognize that it has a certain value that is difficult to replace in our culture.
Rick: Yeah, I think it was Alan Watts who said, “When you get the message, hang up the phone.” I know my own experience with drugs in the 60s was, okay, that was an eye-opener. And I realize now there’s a lot more to life than meets the eye and that everything depends upon your subjective perspective of it and so on. But then I was also such a mess by the end of a year of that, and then I learned such an effective practice that was so wholesome and beneficial for me that I never looked back. And I kind of felt like I would be muddying up the waters to ever try it again, so I wasn’t tempted. But having said that, I just interviewed a couple of guys a couple of weeks ago, Michael Pollan and Christopher Beige, who are in various stages who really did some deep, serious experimentation. So I definitely have an open mind to the whole thing. So there’s a, in your book, which is called “Just in Time,” which I guess was a phrase that kids tease, no, just, wait a minute.
Justin: Yes, that’s correct.
Rick: “Just in Time.” Kids used to tease you with that phrase when you were a kid sometimes?
Justin: They did.
Rick: Did they also say, “Just in Case?”
Justin: Sometimes they said that to me.
Rick: Anyway, in your book, which is a beautiful, interesting chronicle of a very adventurous life, you warn the people, or you ask the people in the beginning to wait until the end to read your so-called credentials. You want them to just read the book first and then get to the credentials. But if you don’t mind, in this interview I’d like to, you know, do the credentials at the beginning and kind of lay a foundation for who you are and on what basis you are going to be saying the things that you’re going to be saying here.
Justin: I do recognize that in our culture, credentials have become important and I don’t pretend like they’re not. I added them then. I added them to this latest book after some resistance because I think to some degree, although I am okay to go ahead and talk about whatever it is that I have going for me in that area, I think it’s not recognizing people’s ability to discern something for themselves. So we read reviews of movies and think of what we’re supposed to like and supposed to appreciate and don’t lean enough on some innate capacity that we have to make those assessments. And I like for those innate capacities to develop rather than to be artificially aided. I also do recognize that it would be infrequent that a person would see somebody talking on a street corner with two people listening to them and go over to listen. More likely if there were that our culture has that stigma and I’m going along with it. So what do you want to know?
Rick: Well, to just add to the point you just made, these days there’s a lot of books out there, there’s a lot of YouTube videos and everything, and a person can immerse themselves in that stuff and get pretty fluent with it, get fairly conversant with it. And you know, they can sound like they know what they’re talking about. They can sound like they’re a teacher or something, they can even go out and start teaching. But that could be deceptive.
Justin: Yeah, crazy. >> Yeah, and so I think it’s, you know, there’s no harm.
Rick: I mean, somebody could, you know, there’s that movie with, what’s his name, about the guy who posed as an airline pilot and as this, and Leo DiCaprio. And you know, he just kind of bluffed his way into these situations. And I think there are some spiritual teachers who sort of bluff their way into the so-called profession. So, I always like to sort of get a sense of people’s background and just, you know, what kind of track record, what sort of experiences have they gone through to get them to the point where they are now teaching in whatever capacity or to whatever size crowds of people, small or large.
Rick: I’ll ask you a leading question to get you going. So, you know, you grew up in Brooklyn, I guess, New York, the New York metropolitan area.
Rick: Bronx, sorry, that’s probably a faux pas to say Brooklyn, right?
Rick: Right. Near Yankee Stadium.
Justin: That would be the biggest point that you make on this.
Rick: It doesn’t get any worse than that. And I’ll recollect a few things from your book. You know, you were musical from a young age. You played the violin with a fair degree of competence. You grew up in a rather large sort of extended family. It almost sounds like these Indian families where everybody lives under one roof, you know, all the uncles and aunts and cousins and mothers and fathers and grandparents and all that stuff. And you take it from there.
Justin: Right. Well, I started, I did have some musical talent. I was committed to Vivaldi until I saw Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley. And then I quickly lost my commitment. So music was a big part of my childhood. And in these family situations, the words “Come play for us” was a frequent, frequently in my ears, and I always hated it. So I grew up in a multi-religious family, which was unusual. The people that had come from Europe, from Southern Russia near Georgia, near Mount Elbrus, lived in a village there, and they all escaped together. And there were Christians and there were Jews and there were Muslims all in this same village. And they were secluded enough that they got along with each other and all made the escape together. And so my family had elements of all these religions. So I was brought up having to visit each one of those churches, synagogues, which was unusual. I wasn’t really won over by any of them, but I certainly was forced to attend from time to time. But I got a flavor of a lot of different ethnicity and like that. And there was a lot of foreign language going on in my family and very little explanation about the essence of the religion. I could say probably none. And if there was any, it was in a language I didn’t speak. So I didn’t really have a religious background or any feelings of that. I basically liked to play stickball.
Rick: So as you got older, how did you first get interested in spirituality? What led to that?
Justin: I had a family friend that lived in another country, lived in South America, and I didn’t know what the connection to my family was, but he invited me to come down to visit him one summer when I was about 13. And I did. I went down to visit him and spent the summer with him. And it was interesting for me, not so much in a spiritual way, but I had never met anyone who had such different takes on so many different things and was so comfortable with himself. And I had extended exposure to him. And it didn’t, it’s probably 10 years or eight years before I recognized there was any spiritual element to his teaching or his involvement with me. I would say it was more human than spiritual. And I see that for myself as well, that I don’t distinguish that much between, or maybe even at all, between a spirituality and humanity. Spirituality is an extension of humanity that happens naturally when things get finer, and so I’m pretty willing to start at the beginning where things are pretty coarse, as I did, and hopefully some of that coarseness is left behind and then we can start talking spirituality.
Rick: Yeah, I like your emphasis on refinement, I think, along the same lines of, as applied to a number of things, even refinement of the nervous system. But you could almost think of spirituality as a progression from appreciation of merely the grosser value of life to subtler values of life. And since the whole spectrum from gross to subtle would be present in everyone, even if they’re not aware of it, then everyone is potentially a great mystic. All they have to do is sort of become aware of the deeper range of their own existence.
Justin: Right, well, I was fortunate in my growing up period, in my teens and early 20s, in that I was exposed to a lot of different worlds in terms of living in the city, living in the country, being involved with gambling, being involved with business, being involved with traveling, and so I learned a lot of languages, not so much in terms of French, Spanish, and Portuguese, but in terms of the language of all those different things, the language of cooking and the language of camping and the language of hustling in a big city. And I find that has really made it possible for me to do what I do because I deal with people from very different backgrounds and I’ve traveled a lot and lived in a lot of different places, and starting at the beginning really necessitates having that kind of exposure.
Rick: Yeah, I heard you say that in some of your other recordings that I listened to that you consider it very useful for not only a spiritual teacher but even a spiritual aspirant of some sort to have had a lot of real world experience. It sort of perhaps makes them a more grounded or integrated individual or with the potential to be better able to relate to people from all sorts of backgrounds and walks of life and so on. Whereas if someone has been shielded and isolated, then they just can’t relate on a personal level to other people so well, right?
Justin: Yeah, I agree with that. I have a way of looking at things, which I wrote about a little bit in that book, but it’s very current with me, not so much as an idea but as an understanding of how things may work and probably do work, similar to seeing the seasons of nature that there are seasons of human life. And there is a going out period that can’t be circumvented. And then in that going out period, it’s necessary to explore. It’s necessary to try different things. It’s necessary to be brave and be bold. It’s necessary to bullshit a little bit. It’s necessary how to learn how to sell yourself a little bit. It’s necessary how to become dexterous in several different circumstances so that you’re not adhering to one situation as only being comfortable. And I see the necessity of that period. And I see that it’s also unfortunate to be exposed to spirituality during that period because if you start knowing too much or hearing too much, what happens is your actions start to be censored. And I think this person who was my mentor, teacher, was very careful not to inhibit me from being an explorer of ordinary life, whether it was business or gambling or cooking or whatever it was I was doing, to go for it. And because I see that period of life, which you could be called going out, ramifying externally, exploring externally, is a very necessary precursor from what might be called coming home. And also that the equipment for going out may be very different than coming home, which presents every spiritual seeker, every aspirant at any stage with the problem of how do you sort through the equipment necessary to come home when all the equipment you’ve used is for going out? What do you think about that?
Rick: Yeah, well, I think that human beings are wired such that as we move from childhood into adolescence, we do tend to start exploring, you know, and going out and trying all kinds of things. I mean, it’s just typical of a teenager to do that. They go through this try-anything phase, you know, and have all kinds of wild experiences and hopefully survive them. And I live in a community, you know, where, well, I live in a town where thousands of people meditate, or used to anyway, and you know, there’s an attempt, has been an attempt over the years by the parents to get their kids into meditation at a young age, and there’s a school set up where everybody meditates and so on. And some of the kids have taken to it and have done very well, extremely well, and the school wins all sorts of awards. But a lot of kids just felt like it was being crammed down their throats and they rebelled against it, as kids will do, and didn’t want any part of it anymore after a while. So, And some of those kids did well. And some of those kids did well, as Irene is adding. So, I think that, in any case, I wouldn’t make a blanket statement that a person shouldn’t get into spirituality at a young age. I mean, Shankara was like 12 when he was writing his commentaries on the Brahma Sutras and the Upanishads, according to legend. But I would say that it really has to be one’s own inspiration, and if it’s superimposed or if one is coerced into it, then naturally, one is not going to take to it. It has to come from within.
Justin: Right. So, then what happens when a person has to reexamine the equipment that they’ve developed, the support systems they’ve developed, and when a person has to do that reexamination to see how much of that equipment is and what kind of that equipment is needed for a more passive or relinquishing life, a more surrendered life rather than a more controlling life? How does a person make that assessment if they haven’t energetically pursued the equipment to go out?
Rick: Yeah, and if they’ve somehow become complacent in the groupthink of an organization or a spiritual group, and all sorts of assumptions and understandings can become so ingrained that you never question them, you take them for granted. And you know, I know in my own case, when I finally left the TM organization that I had been in, there was a period of a lot of reevaluation and of ingrained assumptions. And I’ve observed actually that a lot of people, when they step away from it, end up having some kind of awakening of some sort because somehow the chick has hatched and left the incubator and begins to look around, and there’s kind of a liberating influence to that, looking at everything afresh and not taking your assumptions for granted.
Justin: Like somebody once said, everything feels like home for a while.
Rick: Yeah, and then what?
Justin: And then you have to reexamine, you have to see where you’re at because a lot of the effort that I encourage, well, I encourage two efforts. A lot of the people who come to me, and there’s not a lot of people that come to me, or a lot of people that I encourage to come to me, I find that the going out process that they took part in was relatively inhibited. It was that this teenage phase that you may have gone through, or maybe I may have gone through, a lot of people haven’t gone through and they’ve been basically careful. And carefulness, so I have to encourage those people or inspire those people or assist those people sometimes, even in their going out process. And I’ve encouraged a lot of traveling and a lot of experimentation of different kinds with social work and different business and building and things like that, because a number of the people that I’ve interacted with have not had a dynamic going out period, but then some people have. And for those people, basically, there’s a reexamination period of similar to if you lived in the Northeast, where you lived in Connecticut, you ever went to Miami in the winter, where I would go sometime, mostly to play cards and gamble and lie on the beach, that since you spend all your time, or one spends all one’s time in the cold, we have all these cold weather clothes, and we think they’re necessary all the time, so we take them to Florida. And then in Florida, we’re wondering why we’re sweating all the time, so some reexamination of wardrobe has to happen and there’s a lot of wardrobe going on.
Rick: Yeah. Okay, so stepping back from the metaphors for a second, you’re just saying that it’s good not to let your boundaries get calcified and your assumptions. Good to sort of keep things fresh and alive and I’m putting it in my own words, to not take anything for granted. I mean, there’s a great quote from the Buddha who said, “Don’t believe something just because somebody says it.” He said, “Even if I’ve said it, don’t believe it. Check it out through your own understanding, your own experience.” So, we don’t want to be cynical or skeptical about everything, but at the same time, we shouldn’t just swallow things because somebody says them. We should be open-minded and be able to explore and investigate with what really is a scientific attitude. I mean, even scientists don’t always do that. They get entrenched. But if we can sort of take everything as a hypothesis worthy of investigation and actually investigate it and determine whether it works for us or not, I think that’s kind of a healthy way to live.
Justin: Yeah. I kind of like the metaphor better.
Rick: You do? Did I do justice when I tried to make it literal? Did I do justice to it or did I distort what you were trying to say?
Justin: I think you did exemplary work. But what I think about metaphors and the value of metaphors and the value of analogs is because, well, maybe I could tell a little story. I had one time had a telephone friendship with a mathematician.
Rick: Gödel. I just read that bit.
Justin: Yeah, interesting. And he’s somebody who was actually a compatriot of Einstein, but really never became well known. But I called him one time. I called him from Oregon and I had read something he wrote and I was curious and he picked up the phone, curiously enough, in Princeton where he lived. And he developed something called an incompleteness theorem in mathematicians, in mathematics, and also in logic. And the basis of his, one of his theories was that you can’t use system A for exploring system A. And that’s my opinion about words, that words cannot clarify a system described in words. So better to use fairy tales, better to use numbers, better to use stories, better to use metaphors of any kind because the fairy tales allow a person to extract what they’re capable of extracting. Literal explanations, which certainly I’m using right now, literal explanations lend people to think that they understand things that they don’t really understand because they have become adept at putting words together. What do you think about that one?
Rick: That’s interesting, yeah. Whereas with a fairy tale or a fable or a metaphor or something, you can just sort of extract from it as much as you’re capable. And obviously, a lot of great teachers have used those. Jesus was full of parables and stories and metaphors and pearls before swine and, you know, camels passing through the eyes of needles and all kinds of things. It was obviously an effective way of teaching.
Justin: Yes. I think not only do I teach in that way, but you said you were a Herman Hess fan.
Rick: I was. Back in the day. And we also mentioned van der Post. If people haven’t ever heard of Laurens van der Post, check him out. A story like the wind in a far off place.
Justin: Yes. I think that’s an excellent recommendation. But in terms of Herman Hess and his bead game and his description of the Magister Ludi, there was a crossing of modalities of music into science and science into geography and geography into cooking and seeing the bead game was some formula which he never describes by which people explained one modality through another. And I not only teach in that way, I do think in that way.
Rick: I’m glad you brought that up because I remember that. It’s been decades since I read that book. And of course, interdisciplinary studies are popular in certain schools and so on. But what it triggers for me is the notion that it would be good if we could find the kind of common denominator of various fields of knowledge, the sort of the source from which they all diverge. And there are educational approaches which do that. And if that common denominator can be not just intellectual but experiential, you know, if we can experience that field of consciousness or whatever from which everything emerges and thereby from which all fields of knowledge emerge, that would be a great approach to education.
Justin: I totally agree. I think that would be the meaning of education, really. I suspect that the only realistic way to get at that middle of the onion, to use a heavily used metaphor, is to start from the outside. And so I have concentrated a good deal on starting from the outside and peeling that onion as it’s ready to be peeled. And rather than to start from the inside, which is attractive, and certainly in this new age day, extremely attractive, but it does foster huge amounts of imagination. And it has a way of fostering so much imagination and support system that all these other layers of the onion get ignored and imagined to be circumvented, but they seem to creep back in.
Rick: So, give us a concrete example of what you mean by starting from the outside versus starting from the inside, if you would.
Justin: Good question. Well, fear is clearly a denser vibration than love. And if we’re going toward love, or we’re going toward acceptance and okayness and inner calm, then starting from the outside would definitely have to be dealing with embarrassment, anxiety, fear of different kinds. Not so much of a cataclysmic kind, but the kind of difficulties that repeat themselves over and over again through the day. Competition, feeling that winning is so far, coming in first is so far ahead of coming in second, that coming in second is a disaster. We’ve all been inculcated with those ideas, and to become aware of them and to see which ones will fall away just because of the awareness of them. So, basically negative emotions, difficulties, anxieties, tensions, that are all representatives of densities. So, I don’t think anyone would disagree with that meditation is a pursuit, at least the experience of meditation, maybe not so much the practice, which can be challenging, but the experience is an attempt or a surrender into something that’s very natural and a very fine vibration, and to try to assimilate that fine vibration, starting with something as coarse as anxiety and competition and reactivity of different kinds, would be unrealistic without dealing with going from coarse to fine in increments rather than in imagination.
Rick: So, you’re saying that if someone is wired to be competitive and if they have a lot of fears and anxieties and this and that, then it’s not going to be so productive for them to just try to dive into meditation straight away, that they somehow have to clear away some of that stuff before they can sort of be fit to meditate deeply or something. Is that what you’re saying?
Justin: That is what I’m saying. I think that there are elements of discord that do get sorted out with the practice of meditation, but I don’t think meditation has the capacity, in our culture at least, maybe for the farmer in the fields of a thousand years ago, but with the complexity of our culture, I don’t think meditation for us has the capacity to erase the densities that you say, if we’re wired. I don’t know, I have not met anybody who is not wired to some kind of discord.
Rick: Sure. Yeah. I think I would have to agree with you and disagree, just from my own experience. You know, because when I learned to meditate back when I was 18, I was what they call a hot mess these days. You know, just a pretty messed up kid having dropped out of high school and gotten arrested a couple times and stuff. And you know, psychologically I was pretty confused. But I got such immediate results and my life changed so dramatically so quickly and I stuck with it without fail for all these 50 years that it somehow cleared me through a lot of the stuff that had been, you know, predominating in my life. And I don’t know if I would have been able to clear through all that stuff so successfully otherwise. On the other hand, you know, I don’t claim to have cleared through it all and I know people who kind of do what they call “spiritual bypassing” that’s a popular term these days, where they kind of try to do an end run around their stuff and they perhaps even achieve some fairly profound degree of realization, but they’re really kind of messed up still in various ways and that can linger for decades. I mean, Ken Wilber talks about lines of development and how you can become quite advanced along certain lines and very stunted still along other lines and perhaps some attention is going to be needed to each line. Specifically, you can’t expect, you know, development in one area to drag all the rest along. They’re going to retard it if you expect to do that.
Justin: So, has your experience been that you’ve met people who have had the success that you’ve had starting in the way that you’ve started?
Rick: Yes, quite a few.
Justin: I like that word “bypassing.” I’m definitely going to adopt it into my vocabulary. I had not heard it before.
Rick: Yeah, there have even been people who have even written books about, you know, so-called “spiritual bypassing.” It’s kind of a popular term because there’s been so much of it in contemporary spiritual circles and a lot of times people bypass in a way where they just obsess on an intellectual understanding of what, you know, Ramana Maharshi or some book or something is saying to the point where they feel like they kind of know it and experience it, but really they’ve just gotten sort of engaged in an intellectual understanding. They’re mistaking that for experiential realization.
Justin: I think my take on the situation is that dealing with trauma and dealing with a crisis is less than fruitful because it takes so much energy and it ignores the fact that many crises are happening moment to moment. And so I break down the difficulty or the densities that people experience into the microcosm and deal with those more in the moment to moment, being something like I think I use the phrase in some of my books, and I’ve said that embarrassment is a little death. So, and everyone has experienced to some degree doing something clumsy and looking around to see if you were caught or anybody saw you and like that. And embarrassment is a very big element in our development that we try to control our image and we do whatever we can to control that image and even see people who will reassure us that that image is what it is. And so I have seen that every difficulty can be broken down into its microcosmic particle, things that happen numerous times a day. So we don’t really have to examine the past or be psychoanalyzed about our dreams, but pay attention to the present and shit happens.
Rick: So when you say difficulty, do you mean like habit patterns that cause people to create difficulties in their own life over and over and over again? Or do you mean external circumstances like you live fairly near those fires that were taking place in Paradise, California, that was a difficulty for those people? Are you talking about external or internal difficulties?
Justin: I’m talking about internal reaction to external difficulties.
Rick: Okay, so let’s say the fires. Take that as-
Justin: No, I’d say something smaller like somebody moved your chair.
Rick: I can live with that.
Justin: And the mini difficulty a person has when they go into the kitchen and they had reserved something in the refrigerator and somebody came in and chomped on it. And that mini negative emotion that a person has and has many, many, many times during the day and not even aware that that’s happening and the density that that creates. And being free of those things, those multitudinous events is a lightening experience and meditation requires some lightening. If you use meditation to alleviate heaviness, similar to if you use drugs to alleviate situations, that probably will be the ultimate of what you use that for. It seems to happen, not in every case and maybe not in your case, but in the years I’ve been around, I’ve seen misuse of methods to, you might call it self-calm, to feel better rather than to get free.
Rick: Yeah, well, you know, I’ve heard humility defined as the quality of not insisting that things happen any particular way. And that came to mind when you said getting upset if someone moves your chair or eats your ice cream or something. So, there’s a certain tendency, hopefully, to be able to take things as they come and to roll with the way things unfold without freaking out if things don’t go the way you want them to. And then I’ve also heard you say that humility is a prerequisite to meditation and that in turn meditation is the portal to freedom or enlightenment. So, let’s talk about humility a little bit in this context. It seems to me it would be a valuable quality in terms of being able to take the little things that might otherwise push your buttons and just let them roll off your back like drops on a duck.
Justin: What I think is that a lot of the qualities that we aspire to are innate and natural and were there in the beginning. I don’t think there is an arrogant child being born at that moment. I think that we have within us the capacity for humility and it’s not an attribute, it’s a subtraction of false confidence and arrogance. And as I said, in terms of the going out, these qualities that we’ve had to develop. So, when we go to a job interview and somebody says, “So, how are you at coding? How are you at typing?” We say, “I’m good at it.” We say, “No, not so good.” Then we don’t get the job. So, we know we have to be self-confident and self-confident sometimes is false confidence and false confidence leads to arrogance. It’s in the going out period, it very well be necessary to have that. But in the coming home period process, it seems to become an obstacle. So, my picture of humility is that it is there and it can be uncovered. A picture I have that maybe I’ve described in my writings and maybe not is an ant wearing a suit carrying a briefcase. That would be something, if it were a cartoon, we would laugh at that cartoon. But of course, in something that I read actually that you said, how would it look from 50,000 light years away? It would look like we’re ants carrying briefcases wearing suits. So, I think the natural perspective can be rediscovered if we let some of the add-ons fall away, we come to the natural humility that was there in the beginning.
Rick: Hmm. I often have used that as a sort of thought experiment, you know? Well, even just flying in an airplane and then seeing a city as you fly over it and thinking about all the little dramas that are taking place in people’s lives in that city and how important they must seem and how big. Or, you know, I’m the mayor of this town and the town is really just this little splotch on the map. And then if you resort to astronomy, which you just alluded to, and start thinking about how many stars there are in the galaxy and how many galaxies in the universe and all. And I remember there’s this quote from Carl Sagan that he commented on that first picture of the earth from some satellite far away where it’s just this barely discernible little dot. And there was some comment about just all the wars that have been fought over this little tiny dot that you can basically hardly even see. And all that is kind of seems to me a hubris, you know? It’s a failure to see the big picture, and an attempt to make something that’s really very tiny into something that’s big and important, which ultimately it’s not.
Justin: Yeah, I think that question can definitely be explored, and I think the exploration of that question can be fascinating. I’m thinking of a place in, I think it’s in Utah in the desert, and it’s called Old Woman Rock. And when you drive at it from the west, it looks like an old woman. When you drive, when you pass it and you look back, it looks like a Chevrolet. But it’s called Old Woman Rock, but totally from our perspective. And if we start examining the things that we see in relation to our perspective rather than what we think is, that I think that some of that humility can be uncovered. I also think something like a eclipse is an interesting phenomenon, because people were very excited about the eclipse that happened a year or two ago, and even traveled great distances to be there. But of course, there is no such thing as an eclipse, and eclipse is something that happens from our point of view. If you were on the moon, the eclipse would not be in existence, or other things would be eclipsed. So, much of our life and our perspective comes from our perspective, from our point of view. And if we recognize that it’s only our point of view, and it’s nothing to be confident or pedantic about, then I think that exploration allows humility to come in, that we begin to study more of our conclusions and seeing they’re more drastic and less elastic.
Rick: Yeah. That point about point of view,
Justin: Bob Dylan
Rick: what did he say?
Justin: I think the elastic and the drastic, I think I stole that.
Rick: Ah. Yeah. There’s a theme which I think is interesting here, which is that, you know, as an individual human being, our point of view is necessarily going to be rather tiny by comparison to the whole cosmos or something. We’re focused on specific little things. But, you know, you’ve been talking about refinement and our deeper nature and all, and is it sort of in keeping with your understanding and the traditions you’ve studied with, that our deeper nature, if we go deep enough, is cosmic, it’s vast, it’s universal, it’s unbounded, and that we need to sort of rediscover that. And if we do rediscover it, then, and if it gets integrated into our experience such that we live in that unboundedness all the while, even though we’re focusing on specific things like driving a car or cooking dinner or something, then we end up benefiting from the value of focus which is necessary in order to accomplish things, while at the same time benefiting from the freedom that unboundedness affords.
Justin: Yeah, I agree with that. I think that we have some considerable obstacles which are peculiar to the culture that we live in, and especially in the U.S., because we have been presented with such a large territory in a relatively homogenous territory. We use the same money everywhere, we have the same language everywhere, except Spanish has become more, but at one time it was not really considered either the language that Americans spoke. Whereas people in a country that I just came from, visiting Georgia, which is a very small country and a lot of people don’t even know where it is, within 50 miles of any given city, there are people that speak Russian and people speak Armenian and people speak Georgian and people speak Farsi, Persian. And so any word that’s used is not, you can’t explain something by saying the word is the thing because the word is clearly not the thing. So if I hold up these reading glasses, am I holding this, can you see this? If I’m holding up these reading glasses and I say this is an apple, or I say this is a reading glass, there are no more reading glasses than they’re apples. They are what they are. But in our culture, they are reading glasses. Reading glasses are not a term we use to describe them. They are reading glasses. Whereas for this Georgian person, the Georgian person can’t hang on language so much. And I think the result of that is that we’ve become more explainers than we’ve become explorers because we can explain with language, or at least we imagine that we can explain with language. And when one explains and comes to an explanation which is viable and people agree with that explanation, or even people disagree with that explanation, then exploration is very difficult. So one of the things I teach is that language is for exploration. It’s not for explanation. Let’s try to use language for what it’s for. It’s a representative medium that we put letters and words to things so that we can explore the nature of those things. Now certainly when you’re cooking and you say, “This needs more oregano,” there’s an understanding of what oregano is and what more is. But a lot of the more sophisticated communication, and certainly spiritual communication, is reduced to terminology in equations that have maybe three or four or even five variables. And anybody who’s studied even junior high school math knows that the more variables that you include, the less, the more challenging the equation becomes. Does that make sense?
Rick: It does, and it’s a point that I’ve thought about quite a bit and even gave a talk on one time at the SAND Conference, which is that, you know, our cultural, collective understanding of the spiritual territory is somewhat akin to what Lewis and Clark understood about American geography, you know, when they set out on their expedition. And all these terms are thrown around in popular spiritual parlance, which I don’t think there’s a really clear agreement on or common understanding of. And you have to sort of have a common understanding of words if you’re going to use them for their intended purpose, which is to communicate. But it’s hard to communicate about things that you haven’t experienced. You know, you mentioned the reading glasses, everyone’s experienced that, and so everyone has a picture of what those are. But if you talk about Samadhi, or you know, Brahman consciousness, or various other terms, you know, non-duality that are used in spirituality, there seem to be a lot of interpretations as to what those might actually mean. So, you know, getting back to the Lewis and Clark metaphor, I would like to see, it would be interesting to see our culture evolve to the point where our understanding of geography now is where we have satellite technologies that map out every square foot. And we really understood the whole territory that the spiritual quest is supposed to enable us to traverse. Does that relate to what you said? Did I go off the mark on that? Okay, good.
Justin: No, I followed.
Rick: Good. A question came in from someone that relates to some stuff we’ve been saying, that you were saying earlier. This is from Barry Cahill O’Brien in Spokane, Washington. He asks, well, he mentioned that I have sometimes previously spoken of Eastern mystics that sometimes fall into greater temptations they find when they come to the West. And he asks of you, Justin, do you think this approach of going out prior to spiritual development would help shield people from temptations when spiritual development is then later obtained?
Justin: I think that’s an interesting question. I think I did meet a Catholic, was he a monk or a priest, who had been initiated into priesthood when he was maybe 19 years old and had a very reclusive and secluded life and became disillusioned through the process he took part in. And when he was finally freed of the restrictions of the order he was part of, he went wild. And I see that the idea of, especially in our culture where so much is dangled in front of us, you can do what’s never been done, you can win what’s never been won. It would be very difficult to avoid that growing up with TV and having some of those aspirations of being a superhero of some kind. That if a person doesn’t exercise those muscles to some degree, they are going to remain there. And it doesn’t matter what you’ve done, they are going to remain. So I do think in response to his question, if I’m clear about what he’s asking, that anything that you do on the way out, and I’m not saying doing things that hurt other people or are aggressively harmful or out of the middle of the road in any way, but anything that you do to explore life and to be bold and to take chances and live out the parts of you that have desires that are reasonable, the less weight that you’ll be carrying into the spiritual pursuit.
Rick: Yeah, I mean, speaking of your Catholic friend, I mean, think of all the scandals in the Catholic Church from these people who are living a lifestyle that perhaps is not natural to them and they’re suppressing natural urges and causes them to behave very inappropriately. On the other hand, you know, when I look back at my youth, I kind of wish I could have been a more disciplined person and a better student and things like that instead of such a goof-off. And I wouldn’t have mind having gotten a much better education and so on, but and I feel like I did things that actually harmed me and took some years to repair. So, there’s-
Justin: It seems like you caught up.
Rick: Yeah, I’ve been working on it. It’s been a project. But you know, you look at some of these whiz kids, then again, I mean, we’re getting a little off topic perhaps, but you know, they’re kids that are just, they have these helicopter parents, as they call them, and they’re loaded with pressures to do so well to get into the best colleges and everything else and they never get a chance to be kids or to breathe. And the stress ends up resulting in all kinds of problems for them. Then, you know, I mean, if you could somehow, I mean, my whole understanding of meditation has always been that it’s something that can be integrated into an active life with all kinds of responsibilities and accomplishments and it can help to relieve the pressure and give you a respite, you know, a way of releasing stress and becoming more relaxed physiologically as well as psychologically so that you can plunge in and do a lot without getting burned out. In fact, it’s being used in police forces and with soldiers who have PTSD and stuff like that to great benefit.
Justin: Yeah, it should be used on the soldiers before they go.
Rick: Good idea. Yeah.
Justin: Yeah, I agree with, I basically agree with what you’re saying. I have maintained, the school that I maintained is based on activity and we take care of a lot of land and we travel together and we have had some considerable social work projects, which we started about maybe 20 or so years ago and a lot of interaction and not secluded and not protected at all. And I think that’s really important and it’s also possible, I agree with you, it is possible to combine the introspective parts of life and the surrendered parts of life with external activity and I find no problem in that whatsoever.
Rick: Yeah. Balance, perhaps. I mean, even the Buddha talked about balance, the middle way, the Gita talks about balance, you know, just sort of everything, you know, Ecclesiastes, “To everything there is a season, turn, turn, turn.” So, everything has its place. And I just think spiritual practice can be part of a balanced, integrated life, or it can be taken to extremes, to the exclusion of things which you should actually be putting attention on and you’re not.
Justin: Can I ask you a question?
Justin: Yeah. I noticed that a lot of your references come from scripture and from a good deal in the past. I have written in one of my little blurbs, or maybe more extensively than that, that in order for a person to be a viable spiritual teacher, they have to be able to do two things. They have to be able to pass the salt to you and they have to be able to mail a letter for you. And that would eliminate everyone who has ever lived before. So, it would mean a person would be a more viable spiritual teacher that you met on the street corner who happens to be alive and you could conceivably learn something from, rather than someone who’s lived hundreds or even thousands of years ago because their works or their sayings have been made public. What do you think about all that?
Rick: Well, let’s say you want to be a physicist, but unfortunately Albert Einstein is dead and Niels Bohr and, you know, what’s his name, Pauli and all those guys are dead. Does that mean you can’t study their works and their writings and their knowledge? But, you know, you also need a living physics teacher if you really want to be a good physicist. You need a PhD advisor and so on. I just, I think it’s important to have a living teacher. As someone once put it, “dead gurus don’t kick butt,” but at the same time I think there’s a value in traditional knowledge and perhaps again the word balance comes in. You can derive, I’ve also heard you quote this line, you know, “you take what you need and you leave the rest.” So, I think value can be derived from ancient teachings, but a living teacher and a living practice is also necessary and you can’t just sort of, you know, kind of dwell on stuff that happened a couple thousand years ago and expect to get really far.
Rick: That’s my, you know, and anything I say of course is subject, it’s just my opinion and it may be wrong. But, that’s what comes to mind in response to your question.
Justin: It would only be relevant, and I call a lot of those stories, the biblical stories, the farmer in the field stories. And although very few of us are farmers in the field, I happen to live with some farmers in the field, but they’re growing things that I don’t think they grew back in the Bible. What I do think is that if those stories have not been updated, then we have this, then those ancient scriptural stories are important. But if they have been updated, if they have been made more current, if some of these people that you’ve interviewed, of these 500 people you’ve interviewed, have understood and said things that are updated versions because it comes from their personal, live understanding, I would see those as the current scripture that we have and I would value those because they’re the product of our time. Not to dismiss the ones that happened before, but if they can be replaced, I think they should be replaced.
Rick: Yeah, you know, as you know, I was a student of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and he used to say something that he called “three Eurekas.” He said that there are three criteria by which, you know, our experience can be judged. It should be able to concur with the ancient teachings, but it should also concur with modern science and it should also be actually our experience and not just some imagination. And he said all three of those things can be corroborating evidence, so to speak, for the legitimacy of something. And he also said only a new seed can yield a new crop and he felt that ancient teachings had eroded and deteriorated to a great extent and had lost their original potency and that there needed to be a sort of a fresh infusion of knowledge for our contemporary age.
Justin: It’s definitely a challenge sorting through all the seeds to find out that seed.
Rick: Yeah, and there’s so much that was lost in translation and it got corrupted and distorted over the passage of time and also, you know, you can glean little tidbits from all this ancient stuff, but don’t take it as Gospel truth I would say because who knows what was originally said or written. So, let’s learn a little bit more about you if we may. You’ve had all kinds of adventures and people can read about that in your book, but in terms of your spiritual practice, you did some pretty significant stuff over in Iran and Afghanistan and South America. I think it would be interesting for people to hear about that if you don’t mind telling us.
Justin: Well, I would have, but since I wrote about it, I’ve got to talk about it.
Rick: Yeah, right.
Justin: I described this relationship I had with this man in South America and he basically pointed me in all the directions. Everything that I had done as a young person, I had done at his recommendation and things I wouldn’t have otherwise done, so they weren’t necessarily personal preference, but he was connected. He lived in South America. He had a school of a few people or a following of a few people there and people came from Europe to visit him and spend time with him. He had a history of, he was actually the son of an Indian diplomat, so a Pakistani diplomat. That Pakistani diplomat married someone from South America, so he grew up there, but he was very worldly and had a connection to a school in Afghanistan where he sent me to go and I went there on a few occasions for a few months at a time.
Rick: What did you do there? Can you tell us what kind of practice or lifestyle or whatever?
Justin: Well, the lifestyle was communal and there were maybe 100 people there at any time, maybe 80. It was out in the middle of nowhere and it was an arduous journey to get there, northeast of Kabul, and a good way out in the nowhere.
Rick: Was it a Sufi school?
Justin: I’m going to stay away from that.
Rick: Really? Why?
Justin: As I said, language can only be misunderstood. It can’t be misunderstood. So I would say it was a school for exploring obstacles and there were exercises and things that I took part in, things that I didn’t take part in. It was interesting to me. A lot of it took place in English because they do speak English in that part of the world because the Brits spend so much time there, but a lot of it wasn’t in English. So I learned a little language and it was mostly the exposure to people who were disciplined and me going there at a time where I was not disciplined, which was interesting and definitely instructive to me. But the particular things that I did there, I’m sure they had a value, but I would find it difficult to quantify that value other than it was an exotic part of my resume. What I did see that was definitely of value is a few years after that, and I did spend some time in South America, probably a total of, if I were to add up the months and like that, about three years I spent with him in South America. Then he suggested that I go and he set up this retreat for me where I basically lived. I was taken in a truck out to the middle of nowhere in a desert in Iran, central Iran, and they left me there with plenty of stuff to do. And it was an extraordinary exploration for me because I started off anxious about what I’d do and I ended up feeling like I could stay there for longer. And when the truck came to pick me up, which was the only other time three months later, I was not anxious to leave.
Rick: You slashed the tires.
Justin: I didn’t slash the tires. I did go back because that’s what I was supposed to be doing. A hundred days. But it was a wonderful development of meditation experience for me and passivity for me and lack of content, which is for any Westerner a crisis because content is so much of our lives, activity and stimulus. And probably the greatest stimulus I had was about 15 miles out because I was on I was above the plane and an outcropping of rocks. And every once, maybe every four or five days, a caravan came by of horses and camels and people. And I had binoculars and I could see them through my binoculars. And that was my entertainment for the week.
Rick: Wow. And you had food and water and all that.
Justin: Yes, I was definitely I had plenty of water and plenty of food, not the food I would have ordinarily eaten, but I learned to eat raisins and dates and nuts and stuff like that.
Rick: Oh, they have good raisins. I’ve spent three months in Iran myself. They have great pistachios and grapes and stuff.
Rick: And so you were just spending your days in some little hut or something meditating?
Justin: I was in a cave, which was a lot more than a cave because it had been used for that purpose before. So it was very comfortable and I was comfortable. So it was not challenging in a physical way at all because I had been used to camping and living out and hiking and in much more arduous circumstances. But sometime when if we ever get together, I’d like to hear and share Iran experiences because the only people that I run into that are from Iran are poker players, because I play from time to time. And there are people who have escaped and have a lot of animosity toward the current regime, which is understandable.
Rick: Yeah. Well, I’ll just tell you in a nutshell, as I said, I was in the TM movement and at one point, Maharishi had this theory that, you know, that if groups of people are together meditating, then they will sort of create a subtle influence which will radiate throughout the environment and hopefully, you know, improve things there, especially if there’s some kind of war or something going on. And so, at one point, I guess it was like 1979 or so, groups of us went to Central America, Nicaragua where there was trouble, and Israel, Palestine area, and I don’t know, South Africa because there was trouble down there, and Iran. My group went to Iran. I spent three months in Tehran in a hotel meditating most of the time and left about two days before the Shah did. And researchers kind of got involved and looked at various social indicators of economics and war deaths and other kinds of things and claimed that there was a correlation between our presence and changes in these indicators. I don’t know how objective the researchers were, but some of their research got published in peer-reviewed journals and all. So, that was my adventure there. It was interesting, I mean, things started to really fall apart towards the end. I remember standing on the rooftop of our hotel watching banks and liquor stores and movie theaters all go up in flames and it was good to get out of there.
Justin: It’s a really beautiful country, really similar to California. It has a lot of natural beauty and the people are extraordinary. I put some effort into learning the language after because I stayed around for a while. And it’s really too bad that it’s out of the range of our travel capacity.
Rick: Yeah, and I hope we don’t go to war with it.
Justin: And that too.
Rick: Yeah, and then you spent quite some time, well, before we get onto that, so, you know, I’ve been on long meditation courses and very often when I come off of a long course, I feel like I kind of went in with a rusty old Volkswagen and came out with a nice new Mercedes. I feel like there’s been a nice change over a number of months of intense practice. So, did you notice anything like that from, what was your whole experience of being in that cave?
Justin: Well, I eventually came back to Oregon and is that where I was living? No, maybe the woods of somewhere near Santa Cruz in California. And I felt very much like I was okay being alone, which I didn’t have that experience before. I was definitely habituated to being around activity and people. And I had a very different feeling about being alone and being around decreased stimulus. It was a wonderful feeling, not feeling I had to do things to be okay. And unfortunately, or fortunately, maybe a month into my honeymoon of feeling those feelings is when I got the message that you should start moving toward passing on what you understand, which was very surprising to me because I thought I was going in the other direction. I thought I was becoming a hermit.
Rick: Well, let’s talk more about what you understand and what you’ve been passing on. I mean, if you were to give us some main points, we can spend an hour, if you like, going through various points that you consider most important that you like to work on with people. I don’t want to just say in part, because I’m sure that it’s not just a sort of a, that’s too up here, you know? I’m sure you’re hoping to touch people much more deeply and have a more transformational influence with them.
Justin: I think that it’s important to understand from my perspective that spiritual unfolding is an uncovering process. And no creation is really necessary, not a creation in either an external or an internal way. In other words, we’ve been presented with human life we’ve presented with tremendous diversity, tremendous opportunities, different colors, different sounds, different nature. And we don’t really have to create a school. A school called human life has been created for us. So I don’t put, I put minimal energy into creating circumstances. I put a lot of energy into learning how to maximize those circumstances that we’ve been given. Because if we can maximize that school that we’ve been given, which is human life, then we can, all the things that we see that we need to leave behind will become obvious to us. So I have developed tools. I have developed some methods, which I have been refined over the years that I’ve been doing this, basically for the purpose of exploring these obstacles that need to be removed, defining them, noticing them, recognizing them, and developing the ability to see them without reacting negatively, developing the impartiality to see that the human condition is not our fault and that we have not to blame and we didn’t do anything bad, but we did assimilate some destructive tendencies for the coming home process, which may have been useful for us to accumulate the things we needed to accumulate to feel grounded, as you say. And that it’s an exciting process for some people. It’s a depressing process for other people. It’s a challenging process for some people to the degree that they don’t want to do that exploration because it seems too eroding for the foundation that they’ve created. But some people are excited and interested, although not many. And those are the people that I have stayed with and have stayed with me. And new people come from time to time, but not many. And we involve ourselves in all the things that people do in life. We do a little business, we do a little cooking, we do a little traveling. And in the last 20 or so years, not from my initiative because I was not a social worker kind of guy, but from somebody else’s input who happened to be in my circle of influence, suggested that we take on some children’s international kids that they advertise on TV, 15 bucks a month and you can save a life and like that. So we took on a whole bunch of those kids and then we ended up visiting them. And then we ended up staying for a year and being involved. And from that time, before that time, all my explorations, and I’ve done quite a bit of adventure traveling, had been adventure traveling. But since that time, all the trips that I’ve taken have either been focused around that, not only to do good because there are people that are hurting that can use some very basic help, but because it has been enriching and informative and helpful in perspective and humility for the people that have gone with me to these places, whether it be Cambodia, Thailand, Syria, different places where people have trouble. So that has become part of it. And that’s part of what our world supplies. We haven’t had to create it. So that has become part of the program here, even so much so if I’m not going on too long about it, this last trip that we took to this little country, Georgia, it’s a country that’s trying to move very quickly into Western consciousness and be part of Western Europe. But it’s a very ancient culture with some very ancient religion and very ancient buildings. And so in traveling through there and seeing some of it, we tripped over some grouping of people, some community of people called Dukhabors, which I had heard the word before, but I didn’t know anything about that. Some Christian, originally Christian people that developed in Russia and were expelled from Russia have developed their culture elsewhere. But some very unique ideas of no church and no ministers and everyone has God within them and no Jesus and no like that. Very interesting development. So we went to visit them and all their young people, of course, have left and mostly it’s the remnants of the old religion. And so we spent some time and found out what they needed and put some money into helping them out. Not so much because we’re good and we’re kind, but because it’s there. They’re there, we’re there, and it’s there and it helps them and it helps us.
Rick: Yeah, absolutely. You know, you’ve probably heard the word “seva,” right?
Justin: I have.
Rick: Yeah, and so what you’re doing is a form of seva, which just means selfless service, is probably a good translation of it. And even though it’s selfless, you know, you’re not doing it to sort of aggrandize yourself in any way. It’s conducive to developing more selflessness, you know? It attenuates the ego somehow, I would say, to be focused on the welfare of someone else other than on your own welfare. And I think that’s probably why some spiritual teachers emphasize it so much. It’s actually a spiritual practice.
Justin: I think my experience has been that it’s so enriching to travel and to give, rather than to travel and to pick the cream of the crop of the sights and the foods and like that. And I think anybody who would involve themselves in it, whether it’s a spiritual pursuit or not, would find it hard to go back to the surface type of traveling.
Rick: Yeah, it must culture the heart a lot, right?
Rick: Yeah. Okay. >> So,
Justin: saying a little more about what you asked me about, the program here is very much focused on identifying obstacles of the nature of the kind that we talked about and seeing if they’ll fall away just by recognizing that they’re there. And numerous ones do. And I’ve given the example, if you step in dog shit and you see the dog shit’s there, you’re not going to do it again. If you call it mud, you might do it again. If you call it chocolate, you might do it again. But if you call it dog shit and you see it as it is and you call it what it is, you’re probably not going to do it again and you’re going to avoid it. So, I’ve seen that there are a lot of obstacles that we have to lightness and freedom and a finer vibration do dissipate from noticing them and calling them what they are. Of course, there are some that are more ingrained and they take more recognizing and more internal, let’s call it, intention to leave those behind because we recognize they’re self-destructive. But I recognize the importance to not say that it’s not okay with me as a teacher for you to manifest that way. It has to become not okay with you because I never noticed a child or a teenager change their behavior sincerely because it wasn’t okay with their parents.
Justin: Once it becomes, I never did.
Rick: And often it would increase that sort of behavior.
Rick: Just to get their go.
Justin: So, very much part of the program is to give people the tools and the equipment and the reflections so that they can explore and examine and come to their own conclusions. I’m very adamant about not telling people what to do.
Rick: Mm-hmm, that’s good. So, you’re up there in Northern California and, you know, people are, right now there’s like 160 people watching this and there’ll be thousands who watch it later, and they’re all over the world. I presume that if somebody wants to work with you, they kind of have to be in your, they have to kind of come to Northern California, right? You don’t do anything long distance.
Justin: I’m a 25-mile guru.
Rick: Yeah, right. Well, that’s about all Jesus was, you know, how much he could cover walking around in his sandals.
Justin: I’ll stick with me being a 25-mile guru for now.
Rick: Yeah, and so let’s say someone decides to come there and they actually, you know, come for a month maybe, stay in an Airbnb and then they like it and they decide to move to the area so they can work with you. And there you are in a group of 20 people or 30 people or something, and you have this process you just described of helping to sort of work through things. How do you do that with people? What steps do you take to enable them to, you know?
Justin: Interesting. Actually, there’s someone in that category right now who’s probably watching this broadcast. They came to visit somebody else who happened to be a friend of a friend and stayed for a while. And we’re pretty open with people coming around. We have a lot of land and a lot of houses and are fairly flexible. And he stayed in one of the houses for a while and decided he really was interested in what was happening. So he came back a month later and stayed for a few more days or a week and then went home to his life, which was 3,000 miles away, and heard that we were going down to North Carolina to give some help to the flood victims there and came down to help us there. He didn’t have really any of the preparation that all the other people that have been around me for years had, but it was worth it to try to see what happened. And he came down and became enamored of the dynamic and the humor and that we play music a lot. We love to play music. We play music together. We play rock and roll and we play other stuff. So he got to like our dynamic. And so now he decided to evolve his life from what it was, and he’s coming out here, I think, next week or the week after that and could give it a try for a more permanent basis. But people do communicate with me by email, and I’m fine with that. I respond, and I try to respond positively and encouragingly in whatever way I can. People can read my books or listen to the stuff on the website, but I’m really not so much soliciting. I’m not looking for the money or the exposure. I see that a lot of people have come and gone. Certainly more people have come and gone than have stayed. So I am realistic about that formula, and I am okay with that. And if somebody comes around that I don’t really think I can help them, I’ll tell them that I don’t really think I can help you. And sometimes that even happens for people who have been around a while. I see that it’s necessary for them to move on to have a different experience, and I tell them that. I’m not looking to create longevity in that regard.
Rick: So how does the whole thing get supported? You said you have a lot of land and a lot of houses that cost money, especially in California. What funds it?
Justin: Well, to a degree I do. I, some years ago, invented the pieces of paper that you put on the toilet seat in public toilets that you know what I’m referring to.
Rick: Yeah, yeah.
Justin: Yeah. I invented those, and I have the design pattern for those patterns.
Justin: Pattern and pattern for that.
Justin: Patent and pattern for that.
Justin: And I sold it to a big paper company, and I still have a, get royalties. They’re very small, but I still get royalties. So I’ve asked people, instead of donating money, just, when you go into a public toilet, double up.
Rick: That’s great. What a funny story. It’s amazing how you can invent some little thing like that and be supported for life, more or less.
Justin: Yes, I made up that story.
Justin: Oh, you did?
Justin: None of that happened.
Rick: Oh, it didn’t happen. Okay.
Justin: None of that happened.
Rick: I believed it.
Justin: It’s a good story. It’s a good story. It could have happened. But it’s a fun thing to say, because the actuality is much less believable than that story. So I’ve said that story. But I always tell people I make up the story because I’m not trying to create some illusion of something that we work together. We work together. We have a construction company. We have a company that does derivatives from CBD derivatives. And we have that company. And we have different phases of things that we’ve done to make money. And we have gotten really generous contributions from people that have lived there or have valued what we do. And it seems to work out okay. We don’t have mortgages on the property. We bought them all and built our own houses, because we have the capacity to do that. So we own a lot of real estate. And we get some contributions. And we work together. We pool cars, and we pool food, and we pool housing. And it seems to work out really well.
Rick: Right. So it’s like this little communal group. If someone were to join it or to get involved in it, do they have to, like, take all their savings and throw it into the kitty? Or can you sort of still retain your own possessions and stuff?
Justin: I don’t see the idea of having requirements for participation as being viable. I see that it could be attractive to somebody. But I have a curious view on that, is that it really should be my responsibility to take care of the people who come here, because I know why they’re here. They are just finding out why they’re here. So I make no requirements of any kind whatsoever. No dos. No requirements. If you like to cook, you can cook. If you don’t like to cook, you don’t have to cook. I have no requirements whatsoever. Now, naturally, a person has to be copacetic with cooperation to some degree. But there’s no requirements for giving up anything, surrendering anything, letting other people use your car until you’re at a point where you really feel that that’s what you want to do. So that story is almost hard to believe. Because I know it’s so difficult to have cooperations and communities try to develop what is that term where everybody agrees to something? Whatever that term is.
Justin: Consensus, yes. Which consensus in democracy is really an ideal, very unrealistic ideal, but it’s an interesting idea. We don’t deal with consensus. And I do practice when I feel it’s necessary, which is infrequently that authority position of a tiebreaker. But it’s infrequent that I have to do that, but I do do that. I did do that in this case in what I wanted to be behind me when we had this interview. And I decided that other people said, “Well, you should have this, a picture of Hanuman,” or whatever it is. I said, “No, I want to have the fireplace.”
Rick: Yeah, well, it looks nice. You got your guitar back there. Are there families there with kids or is it mostly single people or people without kids?
Justin: There are kids here. In Oregon, I had a predominance of kids, which happened during that time, which was years ago in the 1970s. I had more kids than adults. And we ended up starting a daycare school just because we were losing the focus in our daycare attempts. Here, there are kids and some of those kids are older now. They’re in high school and some of them are in college. One of them went away to Korea to go to college. One of them is in Santa Cruz, went to college. We have had kids and it’s an interesting dynamic. It certainly is what I consider, if you don’t have kids, I don’t know if you personally have kids, but if you don’t have kids, you have to find some way to have kids. And that doesn’t mean you have to have children or get children. You have to have something that you take care of to that degree that you leave yourself behind. And that is part of my teaching as well. There is no way to circumvent the self-importance and the self-absorption that Western culture has fostered without having something that you are surrendered to taking care of. And I know pets can do it for some people.
Rick: Oh yeah. We’ve had cats and dogs ever since we’ve been married for over 30 years. And for eight years, my wife ran the dog adoption program at the local animal shelter and we’ve had all kinds of adventures of taking care of dogs that have been abandoned and all kinds of stuff like that. So that’s been part of our seva. There’s a couple of questions people sent in. Let me ask you these and then there’s some more things I want to talk to you about, but I want to make sure to get to these. So, one is from Sybil Buckwalter from Randallstown, Maryland, and she asks, “How can we use the power of our thoughts to create our individual and world reality as in affirmations or positive thinking? Can we use our thoughts to heal ourselves physically?”
Justin: Well, that’s a good question. Theoretically, yes. Practically, I think no. Because our thoughts are so unoriginal and so subject to the influences that we’ve had on us that to say that this is a good influence, this is not a good influence, all the influences that we’ve had go into a common pot. And all, if you could see my hands, within this really minimal space, thoughts of everything in this head all swimming together, and then we’re supposed to be able to sort through these thoughts and think which ones are constructive, which ones are destructive. And as I talked about in Gödel’s theorem, that we’re going to use our thoughts to sort through our thoughts has been proven to be unrealistic. So I’d say that much more realistic would be to stop a person on the street who’s a total stranger and say, “What do you think about what I’m doing?” than it would be for you to say to yourself, “What do I think about what I’m doing?” Now, this is a fairly radical statement. But if a person hasn’t gone through a considerable amount of sorting through their own thoughts and seen how many are limiting and self-destructive and derive the humility that comes from that confrontation and seeing that, if a person hasn’t gone through that study, that exploration, then I’m not serious when I say that you’re better off asking a total stranger for reasonableness than asking yourself. Now, of course, if you have gone through that considerable exploration, and you can sort through because you have moved aside from all that you might call it selves in you that have all desperate and disperate and desperate intentions for themselves, and you have been able to separate them from each other by moving aside from them to some impartial place where you would actually been able to look back at that and seeing which are constructive and which are destructive. If you haven’t gone through that training, then I stick to what I’m saying. If you have gone through that training, then it may be with a support system of people who can tell you when you’re slightly going off course, then I think you can use your thoughts and exploration with the thinking process. In my opinion, the thinking process as it’s properly used for exploration is an incredible gift, an incredible gift and an incredible tragedy that we haven’t been able to use it for that incredible gift.
Rick: Yeah, that thing you say about trying to use your thoughts to sort out your thoughts reminds me of that quote that’s attributed to Einstein about trying to solve problems at the same level of consciousness at which they were created, his definition of insanity or futility or some such thing, that the whole thing has to be approached from a different level than the level at which the problem has been entrenched or established.
Justin: Yeah. I like a lot of his explorations because they came through mathematics, and I think mathematics is an interesting language because it tends to limit distortion. It doesn’t eliminate distortion; it tends to minimize distortion. Interestingly enough, in the time that I had that exposure to Kurt Gödel, he recommended—I have very little, to clarify, very little school training in mathematics. Any school training I had was really surface. I did study physics and algebra, et cetera, and calculus, but very surface and very—not as a willing participant, as someone who wanted to get into a good college. But in my conversations with him, he recognized some ability that I had, I guess, because he perpetuated, as did I, the relationship. He suggested I teach a theoretical math course at the University of Oregon, where I was having my meetings. It sounded ridiculous to me, but he suggested it, and he recommended me. I wasn’t pursuing it, but I got a call from the head of the math department that Kurt Gödel, who he knew, of course, knew of, communicated to him that I should teach a math course, so he was soliciting me to teach the math course at the University of Oregon in theoretical mathematics. I did, for one semester. It was one of the most fascinating six months I spent, because we were using this language of numbers and formula to explore all kinds of things that the students were not expecting to be part of their course, but we did it. I did learn in that, that if you can reduce the complexity of your issues into some metaphor that is less complex than the issue, you have a better chance of figuring them out than if you try to do as you described that Einstein said. Einstein also said, if I can get this quote right, in a conversation he had with a married friend that I don’t think I’m going to get this right, that he was jealous or envious of his friend who spent a lifetime with one woman where he had failed twice to spend a lifetime with one woman.
Rick: That’s the whole quote? Yeah.
Justin: Yeah, I didn’t get it quite right, so.
Rick: Yeah, Einstein was a bit of a ladies man there. I watched a bio of him recently on TV, a series.
Rick: Another cool thing about Einstein which I think relates to our discussion about breaking out of the box in terms of thinking, not being sort of in the same groove all the time, is he would do these thought experiments and he would just come up with stuff and other physicists’ jaws would drop. They would say, “How did he get that? Where did that come from?” And he would take a thing like being in an elevator and having it accelerate and would you know whether it was gravity or would you know that it was actually accelerating? And he realized that you couldn’t actually tell the difference. And he came up with one of his theories of relativity based upon that thought experiment. So, he would just sort of have this imaginative way of looking at things, ordinary things, from a new angle and come up with whole new realizations about the way the universe works.
Justin: I have a tremendous value for that capacity and have definitely tried to emulate, study, explore and manifest that capacity. I have had some success, but in my opinion, it is the creative capacity that human beings have to explore in that way.
Rick: Yeah. Here’s another question, this one came in from Kyle Hilding in Minneapolis, “Is there a difference between the meaning or purpose of my regular self and the totality of existence itself? What is it, if there is a difference?” And then there’s a follow-up question, but go for that one first.
Justin: Okay, yeah. This question was put to me in an email by this fellow.
Justin: Recently, he didn’t know what the dynamic was and he wanted to make sure he addressed the question. So, I’m going to give it my best shot and maybe not answer his question, but answer the question that I think the answer that it might be helpful for him to hear, because I do recognize the sincerity of his effort for getting in touch with me and then getting in touch with you to try to ask the question. It seems to me that esoteric questions of that nature can foster long discussions, but the accuracy and the conclusions reached from those discussions, although sometimes satisfying, are more like, I’m not going to say Chinese food because I’m a big Chinese food fan, which they say that you’re hungry a little while after.
Rick: Not necessarily so.
Justin: The amount of Chinese food I eat, I’m not hungry after.
Justin: So, but you get the analogy. I think that it’s not the best way to go about answering those questions. I think the best way to go about answering those questions is to break down those questions into some microcosmic particles, or at least manageable particles that reflect the ideas that he’s talking about. So he’s talking about, say the question again?
Rick: He said, “Is there a difference between the meaning or purpose of my regular self and the totality of existence itself?”
Justin: Yes, the idea of totality and regular self and existence, they’re all such variables and can be interpreted in very different ways. In fact, the whole idea of the self and selves has been understood in so many different ways. The idea of totality definitely is a subjective concept. So I would say if he could find some way to find in his life some reflection of that understanding of that question, then he would be much more likely to be able to get an answer that would further him to the next step. Because in my opinion, as I said, anything that I would say would be an explanation of that phenomenon. And in my opinion, the best way to deal with that phenomenon, or the question that he asked, is to use it to open doors to something on the other side of it, which would be another unknown. And another unknown, and another unknown, until there are so many unknowns that a person feels comfortable with being in the realm of unknown. Because we are basically in the realm of unknown. We’re never the creator, we’re always the created. We’re never the creator, we’re always the created. And because we can throw a pot and build a building, we can imagine that we’re the creator. But even then, we’re given the energy to do that. So we’re always the created. And that feeling of humility that comes from always being an explorer, and never finding the final answer, is, in my opinion, a tremendous opening to growth and possibility. So I know that doesn’t answer his question directly, but I do know that a person who’s trying to get an explanation for that phenomenon is much more served from seeing the size of that phenomenon and trying not to reduce it to words, but to reduce it to experiences, the best I can give.
Rick: I would say that if we regard our regular self, to use his phrase, as being confined to this corporeal frame, then keep exploring because the totality of existence, to use another of his phrases, is actually what the self is. And if the ocean has been squeezed into a drop, it’s going to feel very confined as a drop because it’s really the ocean and it needs to awaken to its birthright or to its true nature as the ocean. That’s the way I’d put it.
Justin: I like the ocean part.
Rick: Yeah. He had a follow-up question, let me just see if we can extract something from this. He said, “Once one has spiritual knowledge regarding the meaning of the universe, how does one connect that meaning in one’s personal life as a regular self with karma, suffering, triumphs, imperfections, etc.?” So, I guess he’s saying, if you actually gain deeper spiritual insight or cognition of the subtle mechanics of the universe, how does that percolate into or translate into the practicalities of mundane life?
Justin: I think it happens very naturally. It certainly has happened naturally for me. I have an interesting history, maybe a unique history for a spiritual seeker, is that I was a professional gambler for a while, and I did well.
Rick: There’s a guy on Jeopardy right now who’s up to, like, pushing $3 million now, he’s a professional sports gambler when he’s not on Jeopardy.
Justin: He’s a Vegas guy. In my youth, I organized and ran poker games in New York City, similar to the movie that’s come out that depicts that, and also horses and racetracks and things like that, so I have that history. And really, everything that goes along with it, with the connections to people that you make that are less than…
Justin: Yeah, unsavory is a good word, yeah. Thank you. And so, I have that background. I also have been involved in sports and boxing and being in that sport.
Rick: As a boxer or as somewhere on the fringes of training?
Justin: Training with boxers, but never boxed, never enjoyed being hit in the head as much.
Rick: Yeah, I could agree.
Justin: But did practice and had some good experiences with that. And so, I have lived, I grew up in New York City, and I grew up in the Bronx, and speaking of the Yankees, from the roof of my building, which is about three blocks from Yankee Stadium, I could see into Yankee Stadium, and the superintendent of our building would sell tickets for the World Series for people to come up to the roof. Of course, we lived there, so we didn’t have to pay. So, I grew up in New York City, and New York City is, it’s difficult to grow up in New York City, and not develop an amount of cynicism, which I did. And a lot of that has changed. I’d say all of that has changed. The idea of kindness, the idea of sharing, the idea of goodwill, all the feelings that go with that, the actual manifestation of those things seem to come from me, and I never really sought out to get them. I want to be kind, I want to be kind, I want to be giving. I think it’s a byproduct of the fineness that comes from leaving the denser obstacles behind. I think it’s part of the natural spiritual progression of things, that people find themselves doing things not as selfishly, and having a broader view of the world, a more accepting view of the world, a more open view of the world. I think all those are products. I’ll give you an interesting example. I don’t know how you’ll relate to this one, but last year, I wrote an article about the Olympics, or maybe it was two years ago, whenever the last big Olympics happened. I wrote an article about the Olympics and submitted it to a couple of magazines that I know that either I’ve written articles for them before or they like articles, and had a very, very negative response to the article I wrote. I’ll give you a thumbnail sketch of the article. It was, “Why is it so fantastic that we are competing and excelling, and priding ourselves, and holding people up to their accomplishments in the excelling of things that leopards do better in terms of running, and monkeys do better in terms of climbing? Where are the Olympics other than perhaps Jeopardy, where our depth of feeling is held up on a pedestal, or our ability to think creatively is put up on a pedestal?” I wrote that article that what has happened is that our culture has been—and I think this is the phrase they did in there—that we’re competing with animals.
Rick: I thought about that article and I thought, “Yeah, but show me an animal that can ski like Lindsey Vonn, or ice skate like Christy Yamaguchi, or even hit a baseball like Mickey Mantle.” But I get your point. I mean, obviously they’re human attributes.
Justin: Let’s stick with the point.
Justin: Because I am in awe of the, especially the ice skaters, because I’ve done that a little bit, and how they do that. I’ve been on a cruise ship where there’s an ice skating rink, and while the cruise ship is moving, they’re putting on an ice show.
Rick: Wow. So you’re skating on moving ice.
Justin: They’re skating on moving ice, and it is phenomenal to watch, and no one can say it’s not a phenomenal accomplishment.
Justin: But how about those other accomplishments?
Rick: Sure. Yeah. And actually, in a way, there’s no Olympics for it, but the people who are the gold medalists of the intellect or of the heart or of the pen and so on end up becoming prominent in their own right. I mean, you know?
Justin: Maybe on your show, but I don’t think so. The ones that discover and become famous do, but how about all those undiscovered ones?
Rick: Sure. I’m sure there are all kinds of unsung heroes. But then we have people like Shakespeare and Beethoven and all who will always be remembered for their greatness because of just what they achieved, which, you know, obviously.
Justin: And Buddy Holly.
Rick: And Buddy Holly, of course, who died here in Iowa after playing at the, I believe it was called the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake. I think it was called the Surf Ballroom. Now, there’s an interesting chapter in your life, which I hope you’ll talk about a little bit, which is that you were sent as sort of a stealth agent to see what Guru Maharaj-ji was up to because through intermediaries, you know, he instructed thousands with minimal preparation into the same meditation that was historically presented under very strict circumstances in, I guess, the school that you had studied. And I was familiar with him at the time because I was setting up TM courses on my college campus and a bunch of people were into Guru Maharaj-ji, and more recently someone had been encouraging me to interview him because he’s still around flying jets all over the world. Somehow he’s become very successful and likes to fly jets. But that was an interesting chapter. I mean, do you have anything you could share about that whole thing that people would,
Justin: It was definitely an interesting chapter for me, and I was instructed to do that. The history is that this mentor of mine from South America had connections in Afghanistan through a generation with his father, with Maharaj-ji’s father. And so they had some connection in learning meditation and being subject to some of the same features. So part of this mentor of mine, whose name is Raya, his attitude was that as much as he knows or I know or somebody knows the possibility for the, let’s call it the creator or the creative energy or whatever we’re talking about, maintaining this whole thing, isn’t restricted from throwing a new element into the mix. Now, certainly in football, the rules were set and when the game starts, people don’t throw new things into the mix. But the commissioner of football in the league over the years has changed the rules. They have licensed, not during the game to change the rules, but in the off-season, they change the rules and they say forward passes are like this, or you got to protect the quarterback or things of that kind. So it’s not in my mentor’s, teacher’s opinion if it was possible that the creator threw a new element into that. And there could be a finger snapping that happened or an instantaneous enlightenment that happened where a person could be introduced to meditation with no preliminary preparation, purpose whatsoever, process whatsoever. And somebody was saying it’s happening. And in fact, there were people that were maybe hitchhiking with somebody else and going to one of these knowledge revealing sessions or meditation revealing sessions and waiting outside for their hitchhiker, their ride to finish, and they happen to come inside and they get initiated also. If that were possible, it would mean that the creative force has thrown a new element of things because that didn’t make sense. So he asked me to explore this question. Now, since then, I have seen other reasons that he could have asked me. And for my own process, because I certainly learned a lot from being part of that process in terms of humility and exposure to people that I would have never been exposed to otherwise. So that’s what happened. He said, I had started a group a year or two years before and I had been meeting with people in Oregon when he told me that I should do this. So I had to suspend my group, which was a challenge for me because I was really getting into it, to teaching. I was starting to feel more comfortable about it. And so he said, take some time, a year or two, and present yourself as an aspirant and no special qualifications and no saying that you’re on any different level than anybody else. Even though I had been practicing the identical meditation or more or less the identical meditation that they had been presenting in two minutes, it took me four years to get it. So I did that and I became a premi, which is what the devotees, and I got involved and I got involved in all different parts of the process. And I worked on the major festival that they had in the Astrodome. And I became fully involved in that and restricted myself from bringing up anything like, well, that’s interesting, which is not part of the program. And although it came to my thoughts that I was making observations, I was fairly well disciplined, although it did leak out every once in a while where I couldn’t keep myself from it, bringing up the understandings that I had, because it very much is not a path of understanding. It’s a path of devotion and love and really following. And so I did that for a while and I got exposure personally to Maraji and got the evidence that I needed and asked if it was okay, am I done now? And I got the word that I’m done now, and so I stopped doing that.
Rick: Just in case people were wondering, he was the guy, many people listening to this won’t even have been born then, but back in the early 70s he was like famous as the 14-year-old perfect guru, and he made a bit of a splash back then.
Justin: Yeah, he was 16 at the time I got involved.
Rick: Uh-huh. Okay, so, I mean, did you feel like it was a legitimate thing that was being presented and that people were benefiting from it, or do you think it was a pearls before swine kind of arrangement where people just due to lack of preparation couldn’t really benefit from what was being thrown out to such large numbers?
Justin: Since then, my understanding is that his program has come to involve a lot more preparation and a lot less dissemination in numbers. So I can’t say, I would restrict myself from saying I believe his awesome sincerity and his awesome energy and his goodwill and his history. So anybody who’s going to put themselves in that position, I find it very remote to be critical of, even though I may disagree, and probably a number of the people that you’ve interviewed, if I listened to what they have to say, I would disagree with them. But, you know, it’s the life of trying to put forth what you understand and have people follow it in the way that you understand it, it ain’t no honeymoon. So anybody who’s doing that I have respect for and I’m not going to be critical about.
Rick: I kind of feel that way too, which is sort of an underlying premise of this show. I don’t necessarily feel that anybody has all the answers, but all these people are contributing what they can and —
Justin: I’m trying my best.
Rick: Yeah, and people naturally have an affinity.
Justin: I’m trying my best for you to make an exception in my case.
Rick: Okay, so you have all the answers, right?
Justin: I didn’t say that.
Rick: I know, I’m just joking. But people have natural affinities with different people and one size does not fit all, and you know, it seems to be the case these days that there’s just this proliferation of teachers around the world for whatever reason, and if we assume that that’s not some kind of mistake, then perhaps the reason is that there’s a kind of a, rather than one to the masses arrangement, maybe there’s some benefit to, you know, much smaller configurations where people can work more closely with teachers and find the teacher that is a good fit for them and benefit from that relationship in a more intimate way. So, anyway, that’s what seems to, who was it, that Thich Nhat Hanh said, “Perhaps the next Buddha will be the Sangha.” In other words, not some Superman figure that’s just going to enlighten the whole world, but lots of little groups that will serve that function for people who resonate with that group.
Justin: I think that’s an interesting formula because it’s a challenging formula for people in our culture because we’re so much, if you look at a rock concert, that’s very much in our culture that we like to look up. We like to look way up. So, somebody who can, I’m around a lot of musicians and we’re all mediocre musicians and we play well enough to have fun together and we do have fun together. But if somebody would come to hear us play, they would certainly hear defects. And we have played out, we’ve played in a few bars and we’ve played for a few events and like that. And if somebody would listen to us, certainly we’re not a band compared to a band of people who have dedicated their lives to that venture. And we’re very much programmed to look at something called perfection in an area that perfection is so subjective, but is recognized as somebody who doesn’t make mistakes, somebody who doesn’t come in second, somebody who has mastered whatever they’ve done and everybody else is kind of not quite there. But in actuality, if you want to learn something, if you want to learn about car mechanics, you just need somebody who knows more than you do. You don’t need the car mechanic master of all times. But since our pride is so much a factor and our programming is such a factor about that, we can only learn from the perfect one, then it really limits us and really causes us to see defects in people when there’s no need to see the defect in our car mechanic instructor because their family situation is not what it could be. Because we’re trying to learn something from them that we recognize that we need to learn and we recognize that they know more than we do. So I like that formulation that you just described from Thich Nhat Hanh.
Rick: Yeah, and what you just said also inclines some people to, you know, gravitate toward teachers who proclaim themselves as being perfect or ultimate or the best or some such thing, and that can be a tricky situation because you want to hitch your wagon to a star, but then it turns out to be a falling star instead of an ascending star, and people can get dragged quite far afield by a teacher who goes off the rails and who all the while proclaiming himself perfect or impeccable or irrefutable or whatever.
Justin: Or may not have even claimed that. We have near our community is the Ananda community, which was started, in fact, the original Ananda community is about five miles from where our place is, and it started by Yogananda, clearly a remarkable person and continued by some of his disciples, and it’s very possible, although I don’t know the subtleties of the history, but some of the people from there, one in particular lives here with us now and has told us some of the subtleties of the history, is that that person was more projected into that position of presenting themselves in that way than they chose to present themselves in that way.
Rick: Yogananda or the person who set up Ananda?
Justin: No, the descendant.
Rick: Yeah, yeah, okay.
Justin: And that’s unfortunate when that happens because if everyone’s looking at you like you are, you may very well feel the necessity to project that image, and that’s very tricky. I think that it’s more realistic, and my situation has a very strong fail-safe on it because I have dealt with the same people and similar people and even the new people that have come around. I live with them, I work with them, I cook with them, I fix cars with them, I do carpentry with them, you know, mow hay with them, and we do our stuff together. And if there are any defects or shortcomings that they’re going to see, they’re going to see them.
Rick: That’s good. It’s a good model. It’s like being married.
Justin: It’s very much like being married, except there are some limitations that I have to maintain.
Rick: Yeah, right. Good point. Alrighty, well, if I ever come out there, I hope you have a drum set because I used to be a drummer. I’m 50 years out of practice, but I’m sure I can still play them.
Justin: Not only do we have a drum set, but we have a music studio that we’ve set up, and we go in there and we play and we rock out and we write some of our own stuff, which is fun. When we were in Georgia, we adapted one of our songs in Georgia, the country, to sing for them, and they’re a singing culture. And what we did was, when we presented ourselves to them to hear their singing and their ritual, we sang our song, which we had adapted to their language and their places, and they loved it.
Rick: Cool. You could have sung “Back in the USSR.” That song mentions Georgia.
Rick: Yeah, it does, but the USSR…
Rick: I know, it’s disbanded, right?
Justin: A little bit. Not in such good terms anymore.
Rick: Oh, I see, right. Well, there is no USSR. Georgia used to be part of it. Now there’s just Russia and all the other things that have broken up.
Justin: And Russia has taken some big chunks, big bites out of Georgia.
Rick: Yeah, and the Ukraine.
Justin: And the Ukraine as well, yeah.
Rick: Anyway, we’re getting into politics, so we better wrap it up. So it’s been great talking to you, Justin.
Justin: I’ve enjoyed it as well.
Rick: Yeah, me too. I will set up a page on batgap.com where your interview will be and your bio and your photo and links to your book on Amazon and a link to your website. And so people can go to that page and then follow up on all that stuff. And they can get in touch with you if they’re interested in getting more involved. And I’m sure there’s some kind of contact form or something on your website, right?
Justin: Yeah, there is.
Rick: And let’s see. It just about covers it. So those who are familiar with this show, I don’t need to hear all this, but those to whom it may be new, I just want to mention there’s an audio podcast of it if you’d like to listen to subscribe to that and listen to just the audio. There’s an email thing where you can be notified of each new interview once it’s posted. And a number of other things if you just poke around through the menus on batgap.com, you’ll find them. So thanks for listening or watching and thank you again very much, Justin. It’s been wonderful spending some time with you.
Justin: I’ve appreciated it. I’ve learned some things and I hope you have too.
Rick: Oh, definitely. Always learning. As Jeremy said in “The Yellow Submarine,” “So little time, so much to know.”
Rick: Alright, thanks. Thanks for those of you listening or watching. Next week I’ll be speaking with a young woman named Leah Cox from the UK.