Rick Archer: 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 have done about 425 of them now. And if this is new to you, and you’d like to watch previous ones, go to batgap.com. And look under the past interviews menu, where you will see all the previous ones organized in various ways. This show is made possible by the support of appreciative listeners and viewers. So if you appreciate it and feel like supporting it in any amount, there’s a Pay Pal button on every page of the site. And if you don’t like Pay Pal, there’s a donate page where you can see other ways of supporting it. My guest today are kitty sorrow and Tony Sarah, I’m going to enter have them give us their own biographical background sketches rather than me just reading the thing they sent me because I think it’d be more interesting to hear them say it, then if I read it. So which of you would like to go first?
Kittisaro: Hello, I don’t know if it’s here, it’s early afternoon. But it’s nice for us to have a chance to the Buddha at the Gas Pump. And I Miss Kitty sorrow. I grew up in Tennessee, with a Jewish father and a Southern Baptist mother. So that was unusual. And my life took me from Southern military school where I was into wrestling up to Princeton in the northeast, to Oxford.
Rick Archer: And you were quite the wrestler you were running really winning these regional championships and stuff.
Kittisaro: Yeah, that was a very central part of who I felt I was I was with my body. Now it’s hard to. And that’s, that’s true, but I really loved it. And we had a region called the Mid South, I was mid south champion. And then we went to a national tournament that I won. And that was, of course, Princeton was a great university, but they also had a very good wrestling team. So I went up there. And that hurt very early on and needed a shoulder operation. And then when it looked like I would need another one I I realized I had to let wrestling go. But I was gonna go to medical school after Princeton, and I unexpectedly got a chance to go to Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship. And it’s when I went to Oxford that I then, in my studies of Aldous Huxley, then started learning a little bit about Buddhism. And I, I never made it back to medical school because in the middle of my thesis, it was a huge topic, art, science and mysticism, in the works of Aldous Huxley, but I was very interested in how these different modes of being inform each other. And in the middle of it, I heard about a great first semester in Thailand, called Arjun Cha. And I met someone who offered to take me and I got a leave of absence from my scholarship and the thesis I was writing and I ended up staying a Buddhist monk for 15 years. In that type of forest tradition. Were later we got invited to start monasteries in England. And that’s the more I met 10, Israel. And we, after our monastic life, we we then fell in love and left the monastery. And we’re married in 92. And then have spent the last 23 years a lot of that time in South Africa, running a hermitage there, and more and more being invited to teaching in this country. So okay, at the moment, we’re in Massachusetts, leaving a treat. And obviously,
Rick Archer: there are all kinds of other juicy details in there like getting typhoid fever and being flat on your back for three years and stuff like that. But maybe he’ll reference back to some of that stuff as we go. And how about you Tanisha
Thanissara: Yeah, hi, everyone. My name is Thanissara. My background is I’m London I’m originally from London. I was grew up in an Anglo Irish family, my father’s my father in his family, large immigrant family from Dublin. And then my mother’s side from Eastern London. And I was part of the working class. So I didn’t really have a spectacular academic trajectory to go along. I left school quite young and started work and try to earn some money to go to college and working as a domestic for a year or so in France and then managed to put a portfolio through and go to art school. And it was at that art school that I started to come across alternative culture and moved out of the family home and moved into a commune and I started to explore meditation and alternative states of consciousness and alternative lifestyles. I also went to Krishna Murthy a lot he was in Rockwood park at that time, we all went to go listen to him. It was in the 1970s. And I was really very attracted to read everything that he read. But I had a dilemma about his pathless path, because I couldn’t really kind of make that leap. And around that time I started meditating, doing a lot of these very strict Burmese style retreats with a go into bulking school. And then around that time, I met Arjun char when he first came to England, and then went to Thailand, and considered ordaining eventually ordained back in England, actually, Today is the anniversary 38 years ago, when I first took my first robes, actually in Britain, and became a nun and stayed as a non trained for 12 years and that forest school helped build a couple of monasteries were co founded, you know, we were part of a team, a group building, the first one students and UK left the Siddhis RCEP. And we fell in love together and decided, you know, also more, I think, deeper currents that were leading us out of a monastery. And then we were invited to South Africa. And as he said, we taught they’re taught in Europe and Israel, the last 20 odd years, 25 years or so. And then more recently, probably the last eight years, I’ve been teaching more in the US, I was part of the Spirit Rock community Dominator training went over two years looking at diversity and bringing the Dama out more into culture. And I also trained as in as a therapeutic process, when I realized I sort of really needed to backtrack and look at sort of deeper levels of wounding and understand the habit that you know, teaching a lot, there’s a lot of psychodynamic material that comes up. So you want to have more skills around that. So now, now we’re, we’re setting up our own nonprofits, we’ve set up our own nonprofit in in Sebastopol and west coasts, and about to launch our own training next year, which will be around the synthesis of Mahayana, Tera, Vaada, psycho spiritual work, but particularly looking at application of that work for the planetary emergency that we’re in how to respond to that, how and at the heart of that around the shift of consciousness needed. Not just what we do, but where we do it from, from a sort of separative consciousness to a more seamless understanding of reality.
Rick Archer: That’s great. There’s a line from a Paul Simon Simon Says my lack of education hasn’t hurt me none. And I would say that with regard to you, you’re an excellent writer. I really enjoyed reading your books.
Thanissara: Thank you so much.
Rick Archer: That was Kodachrome, by the way that song. So I love one thing I love about your books is I love the sort of activist emphasis that you know, the sort of other worldliness and renunciation, quality that often comes across in spiritual circles. You’ve kind of moved beyond that. And you’re very concerned about the world. And as you were just sort of alluding to, you know, I really think that the ultimate solution to the critical problems we face is a spiritual one. And so let’s talk about that a bit today to maybe enliven that idea and collective consciousness even more.
Thanissara: Well, I think we first began to really open now into engage Dharma practice when we were in South Africa. You know, when you’ve landed in a country that was still very impacted and still is impacted by colonialism and apartheid. And that felt like it generated a lot of obviously a lot of racial division but within internally, it also developed to generate a lot of division, and, you know, extreme discrepancy between wealth and poverty, very profoundly under resourced communities that we were in the midst of in the world, KwaZulu Natal. And then at the heart of our time, then late 1990s, we found ourselves in one of the centers of the pandemic of the AIDS crisis. So sitting on us athletes, and, you know, teaching loving kindness and insight, meditation really wasn’t enough, and people were literally knocking on our doors, wanting help. And so then we’ve started to explore setting up projects and fundraising and training people to respond to the crisis when the government was in 10 years of denial. And I think also energized from that, and coming back into the northern hemisphere. And seeing that we had very quickly shifted into, into what was all we always been aware of, but suddenly realizing that we’re in a very serious situation with, with the climate, and the increase of the warming of the biosphere and the, the implications of that. So that kind of led me into more, you know, on the streets activism, going to, more recently going to Standing Rock and being engaged in trainings and looking at how we can bring the Buddhist community on board more, as a collective, you know, as is a very well resourced community. Very, in many ways in Title community. It’s been very focused on individual awakening. So how can we be more collectively respond? So is that still happening, I think there’s been a lot of shifts around at speed in response, but perhaps not quite enough yet. But at the heart of it, what you’re talking about, and I think it’s very pertinent to people that will be watching, but at the gas pump is, is you know, even if we change the systems are clearly it’s we need to change at a systemic level. And that’s happening already. But if we don’t infuse those systems with a radical change of consciousness, then you know, the, you know, As the Buddha said, the fundamental nature of greed, hatred, and delusion, whatever system it picks up, that will be suffused through those structures. And the power dynamic, we obviously have a problem with a very exaggerated and isolated inflated sense of self that is, subsumed this, this sense of entitlement and power over of nature of life of yours, a hierarchy of power, that’s one of the primary systems that we’re in many people are humans over nature, over animals, the masculine over the feminine, you know, white over people of color, you know, so there’s this kind of structure, where we don’t actually experience ourselves as part of a web of life, we’re not really in the web of life anymore. So the realization that, actually, when we go into a meditative process, and into the digital or the heart, that heart is not divided. The heart of pure awareness is really sensitive and non jewel in its nature. It’s the man of Indiana, the mind that goes out and discriminates and discerns and differentiates which is necessary and use that line that has generated this fastly differentiated world and is structures that have dis divorced us really, from a deep sense of belonging. And I think that lack of deep sense of belonging, deep sense of the sacred, inherent within all of life is one of our core diseases and is leading to this extreme destruction that we’ve seen. Yeah.
Rick Archer: So this, perhaps summarize what you just said, whatever we see in the world, whatever that is, in any way, influenced by human activity, is a reflection of the ambient collective consciousness that is created by the contribution of all 7 billion of us. And if there’s, you know, if we’re seeing environmental devastation, and economic inequity, and all this, all the other things you itemized, then those are just like symptoms of something in the collective consciousness that we all are creating, just as a boil on the skin might be a symptom of, you know, some impurity in the blood or something. And, you know, so that people might despair in hearing that because they might think, well, how are we going to get 7 billion people to change their consciousness? What difference can I make? Perhaps you could respond to that question.
Kittisaro: Well, even when, when one person’s consciousness changes, it can it can have a profound impact we’ve spent the last much of the last 20 years For 324 years in South Africa, and we were, when we left the monastery, they had no money we were homeless, and being invited because of our meditative paths had been a monk 15 years into ministry than a nun. For about the same length of time, we would be invited to different places to teach the Dharma. And then an invitation came to come to South Africa, and we were supposed to arrive right after their elections, back in 94, and our friends in the UK at the time said, Oh, don’t go there, it’s going to be a bloodbath. But when we when we meditated on it, contemplated, we thought, we’re being invited for good purpose to share, and encouraged to share the Dama encourage people to practice training the heart, without why not go. And so we arrived right after the elections in the country was in a euphoria at the time, because the elections had gone. Surprisingly, peacefully. But being in that land, and having the impact of one person, like the leadership of Mandela, who poofer Now famously said, when you harbor resentment, it’s a little bit like drinking poison and hoping it will kill your enemies. He spent 27 years in a prison cell and someone who, who just realized the need for, for forgiving, and for including, and, and it was, so we shouldn’t sometimes when we so much, try on the outer side to change things we’re coming from, from force from desire, and not always in touch with the, the, and appreciate the power of, of our being and our presence. And that’s one thing I really appreciate about my monastic training. When I was a wrestler, I just relied on willpower, and I could do more push ups, I could do 500, push ups a day and climb rope and walk on my hands for 100 yards, and work harder than anybody. And I was insane with studies I, you know, to me getting to success was just too hard work. And it was in my monastic life, when I ran into typhoid fever and just got flattened. You know, I found that there’s some things you can’t just shift with, with willpower. And always I realized before, I was always moving ahead to success at some place to get to. And that’s this acquiring mind that that generates a sense of the sacred is not here, there’s a lack here, it’s, it’s we’re going to get to the good stuff to success by by pushing, driving and getting rid of what we shouldn’t have. And it was in this profound surrender to a situation that I wouldn’t have chosen, and with the help of the Buddha’s teachings, to discover that actually, all of this stuff that we take to be our life is arising and ceasing, right inside this, this wide background of awareness of consciousness. And that rather than us going through life, in a sense, life is manifesting through us. And changes at the core there can have profound impacts around and so, you know, to me, that harkens me, you know, I still want to be sensitive to what’s going on in the world and try to encourage the good, but I’ve through seeing examples, like for example, we have a friend who was one of Mr. Mandela’s bodyguards. And so it’s you probably remember, there was a lot of faction fighting and tribal warfare that was being even stirred up by the apartheid government, because they wanted to be able to say, See, these black slaves, they can’t roll, they just kill each other. And so when Mandela was president from 94, to 99, in the province, where we were staying a lot of violence broke out in PEI said in KwaZulu Natal in the town of Richmond, there was one faction killing people in Mr. Mandela was part of the African National Congress. And so Mandela being who he is, he said, I want to go there. I want to speak to the people there. So and so our friend his body, got one of his bodyguards with him and they drove to Richmond and and place the streets were full of people. And Mandela wanted to get out of the bulletproof presidential car and walk among the people. And the bodyguard and the other visors just said, Mr. President, you You can’t do that. They’ll kill you. There had already been quite a few ANC members murdered. And Mr. Mandela, our friend accounts, Mr. Mandela said, If I can’t walk down the streets, my own city, if the president of this country, he said you might as well shoot me now. And he got out of the car. And the and the people were so touched and stunned it said, it’s this waiver of being moved, that he was he was willing to make himself vulnerable. Yeah. And, and trusting something deeper within the human nature is, so there’s one person, and we say, I, well, how many Mandela’s are there? Well, we shouldn’t, we shouldn’t devalue ourselves, you know that what we do when we learn to trust and know this place where everything comes together, where we sit our kinship with each other, and with Mother Earth, that more mysterious things can happen. And so I think, I think that is, it helps me return from a place of despair to something I can do.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I would suggest that perhaps Mandela and King and Gandhi and people like that, it’s not like one person had this incredible leverage and just change things single handedly, it’s that they themselves were representative of some kind of groundswell or shift that was taking place in collective consciousness. And they, they served in the capacity or the role of, you know, leader of this representative of that, and being able to make decisions and be something that people could recognize, but that they were actually well, I can’t think I just said that they were an expression of, of some deep shift that was taking place within the collective.
Thanissara: But also they had this, they had a training that enabled them to channel that. Please fill that role that 27 years of transmuting, what must have been an enormous amount of frustration and anger, and hatred, and really, you know, they turning the prisoner to a university, knowing that eventually they would actually win and preparing for that. But absolutely, he’s not standing alone. But also, I think, the question of it doesn’t need 7 billion of us to make the shift, I think, you know, that theory of a tipping point, I can’t remember what the percentage is. But it’s not that much,
Rick Archer: or there’s different percentages in different systems like in the heart, one 1% of the cells are called pacemaker cells, and they regulate the beating of the whole heart. And in in some nonliving systems, such as a laser, or a magnet that are particularly laser, what’s the square root of 1% of the photons have to align coherently, and they’ll all the other photons will entrain with them. So it could be that rather small percentages of the population need to undergo a profound shift in order for the whole population, because they’re, you know, because they’re functioning at a more fundamental level. And we know that if you can function at a more fundamental level, it influences the more superficial levels more effectively than if you’re functioning on the surface.
Thanissara: Yeah. And you can see that with what’s happening now and say, in the US, and across the world where people are waking up very fast. The collective planet should be the most emergency that were in that there was also an enormous amount of awakening happening. Yeah, it’s like the intensity of the, of the, of the situation, the crisis, a deep crisis, which really a crisis of consciousness of seeing ourselves as separate, really, from the web of life. I think that’s fundamentally that dualistic conscious of separative consciousness, that we don’t actually experience ourselves in an embodied way as as part of the within the deep sense of belonging, whether life there is that sense of alienation, and therefore, all of the pathologies that have emerged out of that we’re seeing that pathology an extreme degree now in the political leaders, they’re lost, they’re degraded, they’re soulless, the, you know, purely after power. And the oligarchs, tiny percent, you know, trying to control it all. And then underneath you see this this ferment happening. Yeah, no awakening and speeding up. i Great, great, you know, at great speed.
Rick Archer: We’re also seeing, you know, the opioid opioid epidemic and all these mass shootings and all that stuff, which is seems to me symptomatic of something. It’s almost symptomatic of the sort of craziness and despair and hopelessness that people feel. Whereas if you can have the perspective that were expressed Seeing hear that there is actually a mass awakening taking place, then you’re not so depressed by the six o’clock news, you know, you feel like, well, if something actually good is happening, it’s not making the news because it’s too subtle, but we really there’s really hope for the world.
Thanissara: Yeah, there is, but we shouldn’t be too pollyannish about it and the enormous challenge of what we’re facing, and and also the degradation to so many communities that are in peoples that are really so profoundly marginalized and unsupported that these extreme events are happening.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I’m sure you would agree that, you know, it’s not sufficient just to sit on the cushion. But it’s also not sufficient just to be the activist who doesn’t sit on the cushion, I mean, that the ideal blend is both if there can be sort of, you know, awakening of one’s own consciousness, then an expression of that an activity of some sort, you’re going to be much more effective.
Kittisaro: You said it, that that’s true. And we continually find a balance. I mean, so many people in the care, the carers and the activists get burned out and overwhelmed. Yep, bye, bye by the monumental tasks at hand. And that’s where the meditative skills of being as able also to reflect on this is how it is, there’s the sense of overwhelm, there’s the nervous system misfiring, there’s exhaustion, and so grateful to the Buddhist teaching, who reminded us that the sacred is always right at the heart of however it is here and now. And that it’s not just when we get to the place where we think it should be. So in those moments of overwhelm, to have cultivated and still be cultivating that capacity to say, this is how it is now. And to, to see the exhaustion and the sensations in the body of the nervous system, freaking out of it, and to hear the thoughts scrambling. And just to know them as they are. Feelings and phenomenon coming and going, again, within a spacious listening within awareness, that that’s not moving into, to know how to engage, but also know how to retreat, this skillful shuttling of how to resource ourselves. And when we do that, we’re, I can’t find it in the scriptures, but it’s like, I remember a story is once that if a cow was stuck in the mud, you could jump in the mud to keep a cow Company, but you might, you might, you know, just get hurt, and you both go down, but you you need a solid purchase, and then to make content from a solid purchase to be able to pull this this suffering creature out. So in moments, even when we’re overwhelmed, if we come to the actuality of the sensations, the feelings, whatever’s happening, and being overwhelmed, that’s the solid purpose of purchase our refuge, providing in his own the truth of the matter. And then we can recharge somewhat, to then allow to respond from what is to how we maybe can can do something.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Or in other words, if you don’t know how to swim, don’t try to get a job as a lifeguard. In the in the Gita, Lord Krishna says stablished in yoga, perform action. So first kind of get yourself grounded and being or whatever you want to call it. And then that foundation action can be more effective and more appropriate, more, right?
Thanissara: I think it’s more responsive because you’re learning to align with the innate intelligence of awareness, the puto you know, the knowing this pure knowing, awareness is dynamic, it’s intelligent, and it’s connected with the depth intelligence of the Dama reality, then you started to listen to that, then there’s a certain guidance or responsiveness that’s not just coming from the cognitive strategizing mind, you can use that in service off. So that’s that, you know, without that, then I think ours are responses and very colored by our agendas, which which are effective, but I don’t think they really have the profound power of the toback transformative nature of what we’re talking about and what’s really needed to transform the consciousness in terms of how we respond where we come from what’s needed.
Rick Archer: Now, that’s great. I guess another way of putting it is that you know, Oh, there’s a profound, vast, unbounded intelligence orchestrating the universe. And if we’re, if we’re estranged from that isolated, cut off from that, then we’re kind of, we’re left to our own wits, you know, to sort of manage it like but if we can become attuned to that, then that intelligence guides our guides and gut and governs our life.
Thanissara: I was very struck when I was at Standing Rock, how the whole indigenous community that is represented, yeah, how they actually moved from that place and how it was so, so ancient from so ancestral, that their activism and their engagement in taking on which was really quite extreme, aggressive forces, that it was very clear that they were completely trusting the power of ceremony and prayer, and the spiritual and the sacred. And their training through around that. And the decolonization of the mind that’s kind of constantly going into the, the sense of me fighting against them, the hierarchy of power, you know, to really explore that how that suffuses everything that we how we think what we’re doing. So for me, it was very radical to be there are felt a great honor to be there as someone learning from an ancient peoples that hold this piece and held it so profound in that way they move in the way that they responded. But definitely that sense of that deep intelligence being informed by that was that it had a real sense of the sacredness of suffused. Yeah, now,
Rick Archer: some people might argue that well, well, that was nice, but the pipeline got built. But what would you say to that
Thanissara: it’s, it’s, it’s not over, they they’re still court cases going on. But also, it’s not, you know, they’ve been doing this for 500 years. So, you know, the first nation peoples indigenous peoples is they’ve learned a lot in terms of standing up to extreme power. It’s not just, you know, a little bit of power that we that we could overturn. This is the power that has committed genocide upon them and across the lands. And so they, they’ve, you know, they’ve know what it is to be profoundly brutalized and disenfranchised. And they, you know, they’ve also been extremely marginalized. But they’ve learned something that’s really profound. And and that was, for me, what was really important is to honor that learning and and for them to recognize, yes, this isn’t the end of this is a battle that wasn’t assuming the first has been. Enough, it’s completely lost, because as I said, there’s court cases going on. But but it’s not the end of the war that aren’t going to struggle. So yeah. Another thing is, I mean, there were 2000 vets that,
Rick Archer: yeah, I started documenting spine,
Thanissara: I think you didn’t say inspired, you know, inspired activists to come from this very radically different place. That was what was so profound for me.
Rick Archer: And the Occupy movement was sort of along those same lines, but I’m just on this point, it’s a little tangential. But I saw a documentary recently about how quickly solar and other alternative energies are moving along, and the guy was saying at the rate they’re going, oil is not going to be viable, much longer, you know, below a certain price or above a certain price. And that that pipeline in many other types of oil, Canadian tar sands, and the Bakken oil is just going to become, it’s gonna get priced out of the market. Because even in Dubai, they’re going to solar and they’ve got all the oil in the world that they’re sitting on. Yeah, I think the
Thanissara: economics of it was is going to be the main game changer, actually, as it often is, and we are in this crunch of the energy trend, revolution, which is sort of in a way reflective of the consciousness revolution is very exciting.
Rick Archer: It is. Yeah, and I would just want to come back to the point that, you know, if we keep talking about this kind of thing, Standing Rock and energy, resolute resolution revolutions and things like that, it’s because the, that those and the consciousness of the earth and the whole thing of awakening and Enlightenment, and all that many people watching this show are interested in are inextricably intertwined. It’s like two legs of a stool, you pull one and the rest are gonna come along. If there’s really an awakening going on, then it’s going to change these, these economic and social structures, because those again, are an expression of the collective consciousness.
Kittisaro: Absolutely, and there’s another way an ordinary person can can contribute this. This machine, it’s chewing up the resources of the Earth and crashing over the creatures and the people that stand in the way it’s built around this, this insatiable consuming of everything and When people are practicing, as we do in the contemplative world, learning to tune into the sheer joy of standing, and relaxing, of breathing, and aligning ourselves with this cosmic rhythm, and tuning up the awareness to to notice the nature of form, and how that takes us back home to this deep place of belonging, because at our deepest place, we merge with that awareness that holds everything. When we when we learn how to take a holiday to return in moments to a place of wholeness, by breath and body awareness, we’re living in a way that is not exploiting anybody, not unnecessarily, resources in the earth, when we try to move our diets to more plant based diets, that that’s another way we can contribute to, to turning the doubt down on that rampant consumerism that keeps you know, feeding this is chewing up of the resources of the Earth right now. So I just don’t, I don’t want to forget that I want to include that that moments. And we do that in moments also, when we important part of our work is when we come together collectively, and have ceremonies together and grow beyond our individual personalities and, and invoke this Power of unity and harmony, there’s an energy that really is blessing and transformative, that I think helped us, for example, survive 23 years in South Africa, anytime that it was very turbulent, and quite challenging. Today, I would like to encourage us to realize we can balance the the activist, work or honor the activist work but also honor what we do, even in personal ways, when we learn how to be Buddhism, it’s called cultivate Samadhi. It’s states of unity that aren’t, and a wholesome, pleasant abiding is not dependent on chewing up any external resources. It’s born of pausing, listening, welcoming, and that sort of skill for learning how to take a holiday learning how to find joy in in nature, joy in walking and seeking and awareness is on a wider level when more people do that has a big impact on on a culture that maybe has this idea that what really makes us healthy is consuming more and more and more. Now, I’m just saying that that’s another powerful way to to address the crisis, as we learn to need less. I was trying to make it
Rick Archer: as good. I mean, every Christmas time every year, the news is all about the sales records and the people mobbing the stores and you know, stampeding and fighting over some latest toy and stuff like that. And it just seems so crazy. I know that in our case, like our car is like, I don’t know, 1617 years old, and every now and then we think, Oh, should we get a newer car. But all we hardly ever do is drive around town and the car does that just fine. So we figured, well, let’s hang on to it. Maybe it’ll last until really good electric cars come out that we can
Thanissara: Yeah. Yeah, which they are beginning to. And I think the other you know, looking at Christmas, for example, you know, it’s it’s like all of us in this awakening world. We could encourage a non consumption Christmas and if people as leaders and teachers to look at that, do we really need to contribute to that. And I think the other point that Katie sorrow made it might have been muffled in the in the sound difficulty was the shifting to more plant based diets as a very profound contribution as one of the leading causes of climate destabilization and eco destruction. And also besides what it does for us and what it does for us so we can survive on the planet. It’s just decolonizing our mind from this idea that we have the right to control animals, or as the native expression is our relatives and these are our relatives. We just can perceive them as animals and see them as though the hierarchy Key. So those kinds of mindsets that that doesn’t that we don’t have the right to do that, really, we now are so aware of what it involves in these huge agro farm. So this sort of awareness where everything that we’re connected with, as you say, the car that you’re driving the flights we take, I mean, we’re all contributing to this economy through the use of oil, and it can’t be avoided. But I think the heightening of awareness begins to change. Our engagement in our activity is what mindfulness does. And you find yourself on day you said, I can’t do that like that anymore. Let me find another way. And I think this is so is this a gradual thing, but it’s needs to happen faster. And I think it is actually, it’s picking up steam is picking up speed, and you see these tipping points happening, like a chain making major, fast food chains beginning to introduce vegan options into the into the hamburgers, and so on. And the sort of Beyond Meat organizations and these investments in looking at looking at dietary, you know, meat, replacements, and so on. So yeah,
Rick Archer: things can change faster than people think. I mean, you know, the Berlin Wall fell quite abruptly. And then Soviet Union collapsed quite abruptly. But we’re also, you know, when we think of tipping points, or well, there’s negative tipping points, of course, in terms of methane being released from the Arctic, but but ordinary tipping points like in are phase transitions are sometimes called in, in physics, where like, you have water at 99 degrees centigrade, nothing much seems to be happening one more degree, and it’s turning to steam and boiling. So there could be phase transitions like that in society as well. We might be closer to than we realize.
Thanissara: It’s not unpredictable. There’s a lot of wildcards out there. We don’t know which way to tip definitely not including in the political realm. You could chip into fascism,
Rick Archer: or tip into something a lot more enlightened.
Rick Archer: I want to totally shift gears and go back to your typhoid fever. And, and you’re also talking about Mandela and jail for 27 years. And the fellow I interviewed from South Africa recently, John Lockley talks about something called Twaweza or something in the sangoma tradition, which is this sickness that people often get when they are marked to become a sangoma, you know, spiritual leader in that tradition. It’s like, kind of nature puts them through the wringer in terms of something they’ve got to work out, set their stories in Christian tradition like that to St. Francis got very sick before undergoing a transition he did. And there are many other examples. So is there something like that in the Buddhist tradition? That’s totally known?
Kittisaro: Yeah, absolutely. You know, it wasn’t what my sense of self wanted my aspirations, right. Like, you know, when I told you I was quite a willful person used to being able to shift things for force of will. And I hit typhoid fever after six months of diarrhea and then got bit by sympathy then was urinating Burrard, and got weaker, but I was still pushing, pushing, but then the typhoid fever, knocked me down. And then my whole body was was different for years. He also writes all your insights, and was really, really exhausted and had to pretty much lay down for three years, and was quite ill for 10. But there’s a principle in Buddhism called David dukkha, which is called Heavenly Messenger. And that in the Buddha’s own life, it was these encountering things that his first reaction was to turn away from any recoil because he didn’t want to really look at it and be with old age sickness in there. But he thought, and thought, what am I he’s he thought, like, what the vanity left me when I realized you, but this body has the nature to age and sicken and die. So what am I what am I reacting to? And how it’s a Heavenly Messenger in the time I didn’t know but when I couldn’t, couldn’t shift it, you know, I could have just quit and blamed everybody. But when my teachers and when the Buddha talks about now there’s something important here, surrender to this receive it teaching here and then this first noble truth is in no blink truth of dukkha it’s not a static thing. The Buddha said when there is that which is hard to bear like sickness. It If he didn’t say it needs to be conquered, instead it needs to be opened to and then when one opens to it, just on the first level one deepens one’s capacity to be real, to be realistic. And, and in an opening to it, there’s been a possibility of seeing how we keep feeding it and perpetuating. So this insight into how suffering is, is continue by wanting things to be different. And that that somehow when there is that opening to that, and in moments of questioning what happens if I just let something be whatever I, if I’m able let go of just clinging to the idea of how it should be. And clinging to this aversion. This shouldn’t be this planet, it’s not fair. I’ve done all this work up come all this way, if we somehow let them be and then those moods just become what they are those feelings, we touch into this sacred ground, this ever present background. awareness within which all manifests and dissolved and that is a profound shifting of lineage, we what we used to think was me my worries, my poor sickness, we realize that’s true, but only as ephemeral sensations, we drop into this deeper abiding. So that’s it. And this is truth of the rebirth in a sense, not being reborn out of insolvency, another body, but we knew all is, is the same principle in the cross in the resurrection, you know, by opening to the suffering, there’s a possibility of the deep transformation. Similarly, in this noble truth of suffering, and in my case, this opening to a sickness, it is later became really important, because when I couldn’t do any of the monastic routines, I had to lie down all that time. And the internal bleeding and I had a lot of chronic inflammation and was very weak. But the sight line down meditation is a wonderful thing on each outbreath I will let go of trying to get anywhere and just feel the support of the ground. And where and when, when similarly, when one softens. volition, of trying to change things, one can recognize that part of being itself was just enough. Yeah. And so I had a chance really to deepen in that which I’m grateful that the illness gave me an opportunity.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I know a fellow who wrote a book called Blessed by a brain tumor. They learned a lot from it. Here’s a, here’s a couple sentences from your book which pertained to this, he said, the Buddha realized that actually, life is unfolding perfectly according to its own natural laws. At its core, it is peaceful and luminous, habitually wanting this moment to be other than it is, however, causes distress, and we lose sight of our true nature. And then a little bit later on suffering is something that is generated from the minds inability to accept reality. Yeah, kind of sounds like Byron Katie, if you’re familiar with her. Yeah,
Thanissara: it’s that’s the Four Noble Truths at the heart of the Buddha’s teaching. So profound. Sometimes it’s like, oh, yeah, I’ve got that, what’s the real profound stuff, but to realize that a lot of the Dukkha the suffering that is, you know, there’s pain or difficulty of that comes to us, but what we do with it is the reactivity around that is generated from the mind itself, and that we can solve. So once we get that peace, and as a practice, and then feel the fruit of that is a direct doorway into the unconditioned into the unborn and the originator. So that nexus of dukkha, being a gateway is a very, it’s a very different relationship to that experience, then Dukkha is something we restrict ourselves from, yeah, we go shopping we, we have our addictive tendencies. And so it’s a very profound learning. And it’s almost a learning that can only come about sometimes when we’re stuck and we can make no other move into let go, which is what a monastic life or Dalit will do, it will push you in the corner or, you know, deadly sickness. And then of course, when that letting go in all sorts of mysterious unfoldings and shifts of consciousness start to happen.
Kittisaro: And ironically, the letting go sometimes makes a healing much more possible, because one’s limited sense of how it should be and all that pushing and pulling and contraction really messes up our subtle energy channels. because we’re, we think we’re separate. But you know, just even on the level of breath, we realize this ocean of vitality that we can breathe in, and breathe, we breathe in the trees breathe out, we breathe out the trees breathe in. And that’s just breath, not to mention the subtle connections to consciousness, where we’re hooked up to this whole, undivided mystery. And when when one is wrestling with the will doing all the stuff that constricts the channels that feed us, and we might teach her my Western teacher who remembered me when I was, I used to teach the monkey Yoga I used to, I was so active, and so he wanted me to get well. And one day when he came up to my room, I was in this attic for a long time, where half of the way of the monastery was a bit of a golden sight, because we were preparing this old Victorian house. The abbot said, TDSR, I realize I’ve been putting all this pressure on to get well because we wanted to back to how we used to be. And he said, I’ll give you permission to die. And he says, now we want you to die. But and the release the the relief of joy, and in more profoundly surrendering to the situation, sometimes the very mysterious energy that can help transform that it is allowed to flow and I didn’t die. And little by little, my energy return. And so I think these, even though we’re so convinced it shouldn’t be this way. And sometimes we feel guilty as an activist Oh, does it mean I just don’t care if I’m letting go for a moment of this horror at what people are doing and what has happened. I think we should trust to that in those moments of softening and letting go with touching down into a deeper reservoir that can also refresh us too. And she did. So I would really encourage activists and we do that just to survive, to learn to modulate being on the front lines to pausing and, and feeling into the perfection of a moment even when it’s painful. Sure.
Rick Archer: Well, as you know, I mean, we’d die within seconds if we had to consciously willfully orchestrate and control all the functions in our body. Just be gone in a moment. And there. But there are more functions such as behavior and thought and, and all kinds of things that actually can also be put in the lap of God as it were, and then manage much more skillfully than our puny intelligence can manage, if we’re willing to let go. And while there’s the bumper sticker, you know, let go and let God Yeah, an interesting question came in from Faisal, all sorry, from Lebanon. He asks, he says, around two months ago, I participated in a vipassana retreat as taught by Eskimo Anka, I would say that, that was a very dried patriarchal approach. I did not resonate with it at all. And it is said that the Theravada tradition has rarely produced any realized being in the last 1000 years, unlike my honor tradition, which is rich and layered. Can you comment on this? And before you do, I just want to read a quote from Tony Starr’s book she said, when monasticism and spiritual practice are overly shaped by a warrior strategy, mostly focused on overcoming the pull of the world, they tend to offer only a partial ripening, one that eventually undermines a fuller and more integrated awakening. The times we are now in invite a shift from a transcendent metaphor which holds us to a lonely road, where we throw away the world like an old rag, to an integrated vision where awakening is collective and radiates into all spheres of life, with a blessed Healing Touch. For this the powerful, dedicated and loyal warrior is invited to enter the path of love.
Thanissara: Wow, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Thank you for the question. I also will you both began our journeys with the B personal style is called the past as taught by going to chi and I have moved on from that. Partly because I did find it became it became rigid. I think inwardly and outwardly for me, not for everyone. It is a very powerful technique. It was originally taught by Lady Sian adores a Burmese forest master that methodology of taking attention through the body, but it was taught as a healing method actually physical healing assists and that’s if you remember the story of go into he went to get healing for his migraines. So it has a it’s a very powerful method but it’s also it’s it’s not very integrated at all I would say. That’s the problem. I found that you leave them at rotation treat, there’s no integration. So, so the way of awakening and we’re not really here to just become a good meditator, good for us, we’re here to awaken. And these are methods, these are pathways, and there’s many, many pathways offered. And you know, through the Mahayana, to the Tera, Vaada, I think it’s hard to imagine Charles asked, Are you enlightened? Are you awakened? And he said, well, it actually takes one to know one he would never speculate on that. You know, I would refute the idea that there’s no awaken Mahi Tera Vaada masters, I think we’ve seen some very contemporary ones in the forest school. And and in all schools, many different ways. You know, depends how we define that, too. You know, and that’s a whole discussion of it by an awakened you mean? Yeah. Find your Lightman Enlightened Masters and so on. As I go along, yeah. But the, you know, so in my journey I found wasn’t a Buddhist meditation, which, which is core Buddhist teaching. But also doing psychotherapeutic work, doing bodywork, do somatic healing, work doing shamanic work in a different kinds of work to supplement the sense that there’s more integrated and fullness of embodied awakening. So it’s not just a sort of transcendent that abdicates from the from the emotional plane from the embodied plane from the relational feel. So my point in the book was that actually a lot of Theravada, and you find it very strong in the Mahayana. To is, the Buddhist metaphor is very much steeped in the warrior mode, you know, you sort of, you know, the tremendous effort it takes for awakening, that when you find it a Buddha’s life, you use that in the archetypal journey of his life, when he was trying to crush the body, not please refuse to eat food, and you got to the point of near death. And then appears the the young, compassionate maidens charter comes with milk, rice, and office in nourishment. And at that point, he realizes he needs nourishment, but it’s a really a metaphor for him opening to the depth feminine to the world of form. And realizing that the way of awakening isn’t a crushing form in the material realm, it’s actually opening to it and realizing reality is suffused through the world of form that is not in you know, is not pulled out of that world of form. So then, then you’re able through that path, through that way of opening to then realize his ultimate awakening. And so I call it the shift from the warrior mode, as you read to the lover archetype, which is a necessary part of we coming into the marketplace, not just trying to get out of samsara, but we entering the marketplace, with this recognition that the completion of the journey is to be to be with love, you know, love with within our embodied experience within our relationship experience, and that’s a whole other piece of work and concentration,
Rick Archer: kind of relates to this theme that we keep coming back to, which is surrendering to divine intelligence, if you want to call it that, rather than sort of trying to pound away through individual will. And which, which, in a sense, and can they kind of accentuate and, and reify the ego it would seem to me
Kittisaro: it’s not, I think, one or the other, to me, as we develop maturity and agility, and tuning in our practice. You know, it’s not a question of surrender, or will or warrior or love. I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s learning how to, you know, that capacity to persevere, and to focus and to inquire, to really look into a situation is very important, because that’s the only, you know, gear that we know, we can sometimes burn out, you know, that famous saying of Nisargadatta, the great non dual sage, you know, he said, wisdom says, I’m nothing, compassion says I’m everything. In between these two banks, the life of the awakened one flows in so I think we can learn how to when to go narrow when to look into and see the nature, but then also how to keep softening, relaxing, surrendering, welcoming, checking again, how it all comes together, how it gets out, heals, in that, that dance between the two, I think is is as our you know, we’re still learning but I think we get more adept at how to curatively know what is appropriate. Sometimes it’s really incredible to be able to persevere in emergency and have that energy. But then you know if that’s all we know that can be so insensitive sometimes sometimes we just need to be able to soften in welcome. And finally, to answer that question or the the Vipassana expression of those Glinka retreats is quite a narrow picture of all of Tera Vaada practice, there’s also a lot of devotion in certainly some of the like, in our monastery of agencia, where you do lots of chanting, and bowing, we’re also regularly practicing surrendering, and melting into that central place where everything merges.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I’ve got, oh, I was just gonna say on this point that you were just making about softening and surrendering, it seems like you’re saying it’s not like you have to be able to not only that, you have to be able to do both, but you have to be able to do both simultaneously. And, you know, here’s a nice quote from one of your books, when we, when we authentically aligned with that deeper prompting, there was a response. This is a living and responsive universe, signs will come books or people or an event, we feel drawn to attend. The important thing, especially with the lover energy is to stay open, inwardly soft and receptive. So I think you can do that in the midst of a very determined dynamic, purposeful type of activity. Because if you don’t do that, then that activity can become Brutus, you know, you can just come sort of insensitive, as you’re saying, and kind of forge ahead in a wrong direction. But if you can sort of be, you know, applying yourself at the same time sensitive to feedback from the universe to indicators that well, maybe you better go a little bit this way, then then it can be more successful. Exactly. Beautiful. Let’s keep talking about this theme. This is good. Interesting, here’s, well, here’s the point. Let’s comment on this one. And I’ll go to the next one. He said when we when we open to the arrows, energy of life, which I think was what we’re talking about here, the divine feminine, the softer quality, what is initially intoxicating, has then to be matured into a global and less personally focused compassion. What I mean by that,
Thanissara: yes, that was written in a context of a whole piece, and I can’t remember the whole piece of it was written in. But the Eros energies to do with our lifeforce, or sexuality or creativity, the imaginative, the intuitive, and often that doesn’t get held, or named very well in a Buddhist vexiona of warrior type approaches. And I would connect that with the depth feminine, and they and the, you know, the sort of deep embodied in life, instead of that sense of being a bit frayed of life, you sometimes get that feeling that in Buddhist practice, it’s a bit like Don’t tempt me with anything. And I think because it is close to sexuality, and that’s, that’s because of Buddhism has come through monastic celibate traditions for centuries, that is a very kind of complex area, it’s not a very and because of our own sexual conditioning around our own sexuality in our contemporary society where there’s some Judeo Christianity was profound shaming, I was just reading an article having you know, my family coming from Ireland, and I was just reading an article about the legacy of of pregnancies outside of marriages in that culture and in the terrible shaming and and death that happened for children born out of wedlock.
Rick Archer: And there was a great movie about that a couple of years ago, I thought,
Thanissara: Madeline sisters, which is children and so, you know, this is a this is this is a, you know, we have these very neurotic and distorted relationships are the selling of sex out there to sell the product or women’s bodies or so, all of this has led to this very distorted relationship to this fundamental Eros energy, which is actually needed for lifeforce and it’s needed for us to feel embodied and part of the part of this web of life part of the fecundity of the earth. And so we’re kind of morphed into this abstraction, we live as a sort of abstracted species in realms of technology and the and the rational and divorced again from that energy. So so you know at first when we when we feel that Often when we fall in love, you know, we fall in love and then we feel we sexually aroused, or you know that whole love, sex, intimacy Nexus. And that’s, you know, that’s very personal and it’s about me and the other one is talking about it maturing is that we start with that put in their spiritual practice. And you know, in the, in the healthy monastic practice, that is the ideal is that that energy is transmuted and transformed and bought into the heart center. And then it becomes available, and you see like a Dalai Lama and Mirage or you see like Artie Dzogchen char, where that love energy was available for everyone regardless, I think, and then it becomes a huge umbrella or huge tree as I can try to describe himself as a huge tree which all sorts of birds can sit in, or, you know, a huge umbrella that shapes and helps people like a Mandela, so that you see the merging of the warrior king lover, archetype, and completely is able to, to transmute that eros love energy, for the welfare of the bodhichitta babysat for the welfare of the whole,
Rick Archer: which kind of, I mean, in a way, Mandela was a monk, since he lived in prison for 27 years, I guess he will stay with his wife for too long after he left and, and then of course, the you know, Arjun Shah, and others and the Dalai Lama are monks. But what you’re saying is that, you know, the energy that they might or correct me if you’re not saying that the energy they might have expended or used in a more personal relationship, or even a sexual relationship was somehow sublimated or transmuted, to use the word you just used, and ended up causing their hearts to blossom and into a much more universal, all embracing wave functions than it might have been had they just been family men.
Thanissara: Yeah, but I don’t want to denigrate family, people get, you know, also working on this path and able to use the family as a container. And say, as, as their monastery is there needs of development, that energy, because then we can get into this video, but it really is the case that that’s a journey. I think, whatever container we’re in, whether we’re family, monastery, or otherwise, that’s a necessary journey that we that we make in awakening, that we start to shift out of our personal fixations, and you’re able to then open out as we mature into this collective,
Kittisaro: and just start reflecting whatever our circumstance whether in a monastery or in the world in a sexual relationship or not, that we can start to inquire into this energy that where we see beauty where we feel like we want intimacy, but start to, to recollect the kinship that we have, with all beings that we all share this old age in sickness, and death and disappointment and hope. And that we then especially as we start to contemplate and realize the sense of separation is, is rooted in the way that we think and how we relate to our thoughts. And we start to touch into that abiding, where everyone is they’re appearing in our mind keeps dissolving back into this silent, ever present, listening, then we can start to touch him to and practice and cultivate a, an intimacy, a well wishing, that is that is universal. It doesn’t deny the special relationships that we have, but it doesn’t limit, our concern, our compassion, our sense of closeness just to those beings in so you know, all the great religious and spiritual traditions have encouraged this purification of love, to a more universal blessing quality,
Rick Archer: the point my wife and I also lived in, in a monastic lifestyle for 15 years prior to getting married. And, and as you can probably test, very often people living in those circumstances are among the most sort of self centered and idiosyncratic people you’re likely to meet. I mean, it’s all about me, me, me and, you know, my Enlightenment and my routine and my, you know, comfort, my quietness and all that stuff. And when you actually enter into a relationship with another person, you have to, you have to start thinking about the other person or it’s not going to work. And if you have kids, then you’re expanding your territory even further, and then very, and then it might expand to the community and then maybe to the nation, maybe to the world. So, so being in the world is not necessarily limiting in terms of ones. In fact, it may be conducive to a more universal perspective. Absolutely.
Thanissara: Yeah, The monastics already eccentric Bancho.
Rick Archer: You can, I’ve even I’ve seen it in various context, I mean, visiting a Christian monastery one time, the organization I was working for was thinking of buying some really kooky characters hanging around there that maybe they didn’t make it went very well in society. And that’s where they ended up there. I think that may be part of it. But also, I think the lifestyle can make you even more kooky, because it doesn’t necessarily give you the feedback you need of what you might get in a more, you know, if you start like not getting along with somebody, you can always gravitate to somebody else. But if you’re if you’re married, or in a relationship, that you’re you’re just in day and night, then you really kind of have to work out your stuff.
Thanissara: Yeah. Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s an imperfect container. What I appreciate about it is it enabled depth, it didn’t actually have a sometimes sophistication with regards to the relational field or psycho psycho understanding of psychology. And it’s like a spiritual bypassing in that territory. So
Rick Archer: it’s also interesting to consider how so many of the leaders or gurus of these, you know, who are very often coming from the east kind of fall flat in their faces after a while in the West, because they just haven’t had the social interaction experience in their spiritual upbringing that they kind of needed to have in order to function in Western society.
Thanissara: Yeah, that’s a big subject that definitely that. Yeah, you know, I think a patriarchal structures that the transmission has happened, through which the transmission has happened off of the of the dharma of awakening modalities, also contributes to a difficulty around a more natural organic process of feedback and checking. And maybe those very same gurus in their own home systems had more containment and feedback processes that weren’t available in the west or the way Western This is the lack of boundaries. And the way Western is misunderstood. Perhaps some of the there’s their cultural the way they would have been held in a cultural context. Yeah. But also, this sense of the Divine Right of the group is something that we don’t understand very well, it has become very unhealthy and disporting and and abusive. So there’s a lot of fallout and I’ve learning around all of this in the last few decades.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I mean, the Divine Right of gurus works about as well as the divine right of kings. I mean, you really have to earn it. And, and very often they haven’t, and yet they claim it. And people follow them blindly thinking, Well, I don’t understand this behavior. But this guy is supposed to be enlightened. So I guess I’m just gonna go along with it. The whole thing just gets more and more off the deep end.
Thanissara: Exactly, exactly. I mean, the Buddha, the original structure, the karma Vinaya, there’s karma Sangha, that which Sangha karma that which guides the development of community, there was always within that system of corporate Varna and flotation for feedback, which is also a ceremony that you’re supposed to go through collectively every year, but it means that whoever you are, whether you’re an avid whether you’re the head of the monastery, whether you’re the newest member, you open yourself a feedback. And I think that’s a system of checks and balances and health. If it’s very authentic, but it calls Ken’s becomes tends to become rather stylized and formulized. And so the actual real ability to do that in a process orientated way, is not always that available, but I think that’s what helps keeps those systems healthy.
Kittisaro: And I really feel that I hope those systems remain because to me the option in a society of about a place where one can lead a celibate renunciate life and focus with with other kindred spirits is very important. And I would like to know also the Buddha talked about fourfold sangha and the importance of not only ordain men and women, but also lay men lay women, you know, and how the two can support one another. So I would hate to see those deeper monastic contemplative opportunities disappear. Certainly they had a huge blessing on our life. But I think we, we, you know, it is not the only the only way and well, however we’re practicing, that can be shadows, just as Tanisha said, the Buddha realized that and encouraged us to keep being aware that we might have blind spots. That’s why he encouraged us to not be the kind of people that you can’t give feedback to, but to be the kind of person who is interested in causes impacting you. Is there something I need to hear back from you?
Rick Archer: Yeah. A week ago today, I gave a talk at the science and non duality conference about the ethics of Enlightenment. Not that I’m supposed to be some kind of expert on this, but I just put together a lot of thoughts and conferred with a bunch of friends and gave this talk, which I’ll be posting on BatGap. But part of the talk was a quote that I read from the Dalai Lama, where he talks about, you know, if a teacher is behaving inappropriately, you really need to call him on it. And, and if he doesn’t respond, then publish it in the newspaper, include his name in it, we shouldn’t just let the sweep this stuff under the rug and hope that things are going to be okay.
Thanissara: I think the difficulty with that advice, I think it’s a very, very good advice, but a lot of people that that are sometimes abused feel quite disempowered. And there can be fear, sure. And very well concerns about if you’ve been in a community for a few decades, and you’ve got no other livelihood. So they’re often not in a very powerful position to do that. So really, yes, that should happen, but really should be the leaders of the community that should also hold each other accountable. Because they have the power, they hold the power,
Rick Archer: something like that happening in Hollywood. Now this whole Harvey Weinstein scandal, you know, and all these actresses and women who had been abused by him and are speaking out, finally, and they had been afraid to do so for fear of losing their jobs, because he was so powerful in Hollywood. But now Hollywood itself, the upper echelon is saying, this is the end of an era, we’re not going to tolerate this anymore. So it seems like on several different fronts like that there’s a transparency that suddenly emerging and a sort of a dissatisfaction with the status quo and this kind of old Hanky Panky going on any longer.
Thanissara: Yeah, I think that if you if you’ve spent millennia, objectifying healing, that guy was one of my friends, we’ve talking about this the other day, that from South Africa, Peter worse is a former minister, talking about how, you know, the whole system produces the guy at the top, and he is the he’s the powerful guy. And you have in the system with the objectification of women, then it’s your right, she’s like, the like the king, again, it’s your right to pick and choose. And you know, you get away with this behavior. But it says so it is the characters that display the behavior, but it’s a systemic level that we also need to look at. And I think the me to campaign that went out and went viral in response to Weinstein was very powerful, because it really broke the silence, you know, that the thing of the those that feel victimized breaking the silence, and then women on peoples that have been abused in various spheres of society, whether it be gender, or what other reason that they’re in a marginal disempowered position to break the silence collectively, so that it reveals and opens the shadow. And then as you say, this sort of tipping that another tipping point, that is toxic behavior is no longer acceptable. It’s not something that we’re going to withstand.
Rick Archer: And these, these things really are breakthroughs. I mean, I think progress is being made. And we’re not just going to, you know, once a certain Norm has been established, you know, like gay marriage, for instance, it’s not going to be illegal, made illegal again. Because, you know, it’s just, you know, that something has been established. And so this whole thing about abusing women and so on, it’s a lot of this stuff, it’s the time for things to come to light. I guess that’s what I want to say that a lot of a lot of stuff that’s been hidden is coming to light now. And huge amounts. Yeah, that’s very inspiring.
Thanissara: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s part of our evolutionary crunch at the moment is that we’re being faced with systemic levels of these profoundly Dysfunctional Systems.
Kittisaro: And I think something that helps us in the which is a warning. Now that the Buddha gave an image, he said, if you’re riding on the back of a donkey, and fall off, no big deal, you dust yourself off, it might be a little more painful, but he said, if you’re riding on the back of an elephant, and you fall off, you come back, you’re back. Right? He’s saying that when you’re in this position of leadership, you know, carrying a banner of among the non guru, leader of something, the megaphone of your power increases the karma so much. And it’s just really important to remember that you know, that, you know, what you do that is good can be amplified, but what you do that is unwholesome rooted in selfishness and aversion or just the insensitive greed and loss is amplified exponentially. And so are our teachers in chocolate saying, he told us all we’re all going to be teachers. He said, it’ll happen. He said, But don’t be the kind of teacher gets so puffed up, you can get through the door. He said, he said, fundamentally, you’re a practitioner. And if it’s it’s time for some sharing to happen or teaching or Leadership of how one does that. But that’s not who one is. That’s not one’s identity. One’s prime identity is this humble taking refuge again and again with this inner place of listening and awareness. And I found that advice, really is helping me to try to stay sane.
Rick Archer: I say, oh, it says it’s always good to have the attitude of a beginner. And, and just what you were saying there Kisara. I mean, there’s so many examples of the sort of larger than life out of control characters who were just sort of, you know, I don’t know, it’s like, like, like you said, the bigger they are, the harder they fall or something. But I remember, there’s some quote from Who is it Padma Sun bhava, I believe he said, even though my awareness is as vast as the sky, my attention to karma is as fine as a grain of barley flour. Yeah, so it’s almost like the more vast your awareness becomes, the more impeccable, you you need to be.
Kittisaro: That’s it. Yeah.
Rick Archer: Or one way of putting it is if the if a judge commits the same crime as a uneducated man, perhaps his punishment will be greater, because he really should know better. He knows the law, you know?
Thanissara: Yeah. More responsibility, the more aware you become.
Rick Archer: The main point, though, keep in mind as we go along that if I’m not asking some question, and you have something in mind, who I’m talking about, it’s different than what we’re talking about, just let me know. But here’s something I don’t know. I just took all these notes. I don’t know whose book is who’s at this point. But someone said one of you said, for the most part, the practice of Buddhist meditation introduced into western culture from the late 1960s went hand in hand with spiritual bypassing. And I wouldn’t necessarily just pin it on Buddhist meditation. I think maybe the same was true of meditations coming out of Hindu tradition, traditions. So do you suppose is that because of what we’ve been talking about you think the patriarchal emphasis or is there some other reason for that, or what?
Thanissara: I think there’s I think it’s quite complex, why we want to bypass the actual journey of awakening and the messy side of it, I think we often get into these. These system’s committed at very deep levels, we talked about you being a monastic, we were mastic or people going into a spiritual path. And then it’s very easy to start to generate an idealized persona and an idealized an ideation of what Enlightenment is spirituality is, which is completely problematic, you know, we can end up being a rather aloof, judgmental person, that is Phil’s above everyone, and really not looking at our own inner issues or our own shadows, our own wounds, you know, we prefer not to go there. And so what can actually happen is as those as we split away from very fundamental wounding, and we’re not really addressing that deep areas of you know, rage or unacceptable emotions we’ve got you know, rage, jealousy, pettiness, resentment, these aren’t very nice energies to admit that we have a we It doesn’t fit our spiritual persona. But the danger in that is that one that we repress them and it can actually affect the body in very negative ways, because their energy is still there, or we project them onto the self and we get the effect of, you know, feeling depressed or feeling dislocated. Then we project them onto other people, like why are you though? You know, you’re the ones that are that are angry and Uparati, not me. So there’s this time there’s turn and I think it was coined a little bit by John whirlwinds work, which is really worth reading, the psychology of awakening is one of his primary books is, is returning, you know, this is why I did a lot of in depth therapeutic work. So I realized I bypass quite a lot. And I realized that I had these sort of, you can feel it in you’re in your energy body, you have these dislocations, and splits within, and then there’s sort of symptoms of that. So going through a very deep awareness space. The psychotherapeutic process, enabled me and then continues to enable me to get in touch with you know, very early what you call primary patenting, very early patenting, when with developmental phases of your life. When a lot of these very deep, you might categorize as negative energies or the bad sense of self is developed through painful experience and it gets kind of locked in into your energy body. And then it got some layers over through all sorts of defenses, which dislocates us and doesn’t allow the fullness of our energy to operate. So actually returning into an opening into primary rage, for example, or primary fear these kinds of energies, you know, in a therapeutic relationship with a say, the held compassionate dynamic enables a sort of release and opening and an understanding and the integration and the transformation of those energies so that the awakening becomes more integrated emotionally and more embodied. And then there is the side effects and the splits that start to happen, where you can actually find, I think, the leads into this very discussion, we’ve just had, you know, very awakened gurus on one level that can really talk the talk, within another level, they land up abusing people, or they land up in fits of rage and call it sort of Crazy Wisdom, when actually they’re just enraged. And they’ve never dealt with the fact that perhaps they have a lot of anger, you know, that that. Like, you know, all of us don’t start off as Buddhist gurus we start off as young babies. And, you know, we develop these very deeply learned emotional experiences, that doesn’t necessarily even come with abusive or bad parenting even very small things like not being fair on time and feeling abandoned and feeling lost. And you know, these these emotional learnings are very deep, and we compensate, compensate, compensate. So I like the term just to wrap this up. So it’s a big subject, but I like the way it charged spoke about awakening. So it’s not we’re here to catapult ourselves into an ideal, don’t be a Buddha, don’t be a bodhisattva is if you’ve got to be anything be an earthworm, because at least they go down through the mud. So rather than a sort of up and out kind of metaphor, which fits this more disembodied, patriarchal, religious metaphor that’s been going on for millennia, because I could down and through the material of our life, and it gets kind of muddy and messy, but it’s more authentic. And then it allows us to really be more integrated and more whole.
Rick Archer: Yeah, a lot of people coming around to that perspective, also in the sort of the, you know, Vedanta non dual world, that because the other thing didn’t work that well. We learned in the end, yeah, by necessity, they’re coming around to that perspective. Here’s, here’s a nice sentence from your book, he said, one of the functions of emotions, such as sadness is to keep our heart tender and open. It helps us feel what we need to feel to stay humane. And my friend Michael Rodriguez, recently wrote an article called The Wisdom of heartbreak. But in any case, you know, just just, it was just sort of a commentary on what you were just saying, Do you think that um, spiritual practice, at least as you have known it can actually help persons keep things bottled up? Even? Yeah, even though they’re trying to sort of open up to something deeper and vaster it actually sort of keeps them numbed in certain ways? Yeah,
Thanissara: I don’t think I think the early transmission of these Enlightenment processes that came from Asia, I don’t think there was a lot of psychological sophistication. In terms of the individuated ego self, there was a lot of there’s a very brilliant psychology of Buddhism. But in terms of the particularity of the developmental processes that you find really unfolded and very well, in developmental therapeutics, psychologist, I think that to marry in some of that wisdom is very, very helpful, both as wisdom but also as practice.
Kittisaro: And I like to add that I think it really helps to have a good teacher who is aware of this tendency, because if you’re really aspiring to calm and tranquility and insight and even the name of hindrance for desire and aversion, you can, you can concretize those emotions as bad things that you need to get rid of her teacher Arjun Cha said, Don’t be in a hurry to get rid of these things. He said, They will be your teachers and your sharpening stones. So this active encouragement to also welcome from time to time these energies fully, to feel them, to relax with him, to to get to know them. And as he said, read the book that your heart is the most important, rather than we have all these ideas about what the stages should look like. And then we try to project ourselves into some advanced stage and we’re not reading the moment to moment. moods and tendencies which are really revealing how it is right now. So I think a good teacher can help us a lot. Avoid Some of those problems and I think that’s why spiritual friendship is vital that to help us see our blind spots, and they get stuck, and it really takes a trustworthy person sometimes to help us see, hey man, when you’re doing you’re bottling it all up and waiting on me them in some times. That’s why congregation or church or Sangha or kindred spirits, is considered so important, at least in the Buddhist path to help us stay on track.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I guess that if we wanted to put into a phrase, everything we’ve been talking about here, or a lot of what we’ve been talking about here, it would be sacred feminine, which is kind of a popular phrase, these days, everybody’s talking about it. And here’s a quote from your book, he said, it’s also my understanding that it was not possible for the Buddha or anyone else, to open into Enlightenment without going through the door of the sacred feminine. So if we take that literally, the Buddha or anyone else, it almost sounds like anybody who hasn’t done that anybody who’s still on the sort of hyper masculine warrior path, so to speak, by definition, couldn’t be enlightened yet. And they’re going to have to soften and go through the door of the sacred feminine in order to be enlightened. Would you agree with that?
Thanissara: Well, that might be I don’t know, to Absolutely. That might be a bit too. Yeah, well, to
Kittisaro: me, too, grandiose willpower, volition, when you’re directing the attention to an object to you to this situation, then what appears in one’s vision, whether it’s a sensation, whether it’s the cosmos, whether it’s a state of peace is going to be something that is by nature, shifting, transmuting and changing, and, and if, if that, when we only know willpower, that’s the part that can claim and then what we take to be me and mine keeps changing. So we create birth and death. So that energy is useful for persistence and investigation. But the Buddha said, you know, absolutely, without the word used is tucked in nice of God, which means without giving it back. Without that surrender and softening, then we’re only with that which is generated through volition. Without that, and a phrase for it is the sacred feminine, the dying into in surrendering to the ultimate womb, the ultimate receptacle, which is that ground ground of awareness, the Buddha said, there is no freedom unless there is that so the two really, I would agree, the name of it, we can discuss and come up with different names. But there needs to be this, this training of volition and then relinquishing of it, framing of it, relinquishing which you can call the balance of male and female or a yin and yang.
Thanissara: Yeah, I think in that way, it’s beautifully put. And I think in that way, we’re looking at a family and not as a gender base, quite obviously, is gender base, but also as an attribute within within all gender or non gender, those outside the gender binary, it’s an attribute of, of that profound receptivity. And therefore I probably would say, although I don’t know, you know, qualifying that, that probably would say that, that has to be a doorway to full awakening as it was for the good in my reading of the archetypal journey that he undertook,
Rick Archer: yeah, my understanding of his story, which are most recently read in your book, and he, he was volitional and willful and persevering, you know, to the nth degree, like, you know, out, did everybody, but then his, his realization finally came only when he shifted into a more surrendered mode, and accepted the food from the woman and you know, just kind of chilled a bit.
Thanissara: What well, that’s why and also accepted life. Yeah. The body and, and also, he had the memory of the child, you know, so it was an intuitive, it’s like the psyche will, you know, it’s through the moment you realize you can’t do it, you know, and then you get gave up and then these things happened. And then this very innocent young, opening through his memory of being a child and having an opening, and that led him then on the right track, to his knife of awakening. And those are quite significant a child and a woman being sort of doorways for that softening and opening
Kittisaro: turning points that are important signposts reminding me reminding him you’ve gone to an extreme. You’re heading in the wrong direction, and each of those turned in back to a place more of unification. Yeah,
Rick Archer: I mean, his whole thing was the middle way, right? Yeah. And so what You were just saying Kisara a minute ago is, you know, we don’t, we don’t want to be like, surrendered to the point of no initiative or intention or, you know, just said, I think I’ll just sit lie on the couch and wait for something to happen. But on the other hand, we, you know, if there’s this sort of like straining, forcing, pushing, driving kind of energy relentlessly, then that, too, is imbalanced. So there’s some kind of a both and paradoxical embrace of both qualities that that most function most effective. Well said. Well, it’s getting a little ahead. That’s how
Kittisaro: I That’s how our practice matures. It’s ongoing, you know, this agility, this, this tuning, you know, is I mean, there was a famous story of a, someone was very inspired at the time of the Buddha by the Buddha’s life, he was wealthy, he gave up his, his inheritance to follow the Buddha and he wanted to be awakened just like the Buddha and he walked meditation back and forth, and more effort, more effort, even to the point of his feet starting to bleed. And, indeed, he just started thinking, Well, I don’t think I can do it, maybe in my I can go back and be a lay person and do good deeds. And then in my next life, I can be enlightened and the Buddha overheard his thoughts from a distance and appeared beforehand and said, the guy’s name was Sony’s that Selma sort of thinking of giving up and he said, yes. No one can try harder than this. I can’t do it. I was thinking of making the Carmine. Next slide. And the Buddha said, Didn’t you used to play a musical instrument? And some said, Yeah, we played a stringed instrument called a Veena then it seems to be something like a lute or something. The Buddha said, How was it when the string was too tight? And he said didn’t make a nice sound. It’s screech. Yeah. He said, What about when it’s too loose? He said, whatever, when you tune it, just try. And so he was encouraging Sona and all of us to that as our practice carries deepens, we learn to tune this, this validation, and softening and surrendering so that there’s a balance that can can be attained to each situation. We love how to do listening.
Rick Archer: Yes, is that the Vedic tradition to you know, the Gita balance of mind is called Yoga and it says this, this Yoga is not for him who eats too much or too little, who sleeps too much or too little? And, you know, just sort of moderation advice. Okay, you know what we’re just about gonna wrap it up. But just one more thing I found interesting in your book, which I hadn’t known, what others might wish to know, is that the Buddha himself didn’t just sit under a tree with a beatific smile on his face. I mean, he was actually engaged in all kinds of things and all kinds of negotiations to try to stop a war and all sorts of interactions with all kinds of people he lived a very active engaged life with, with people of all types in the world.
Thanissara: Yes, and I think that’s often doesn’t get the president is he said, as someone that was talking with generals, with kings with core designs with porpoise with Legos, you know, that this whole range that that actually effected a profound systemic change by ordaining women by dissolving the hierarchy of caste, in his in his ordination structures. These sorts of very, you know, by taking on animal sacrifices and denouncing them, that he was he was pretty activist how awfully effective in society and environment when he tried to stop a tribal war against one tribe against his own peoples. And then, and then in the end, he couldn’t actually be tried, he tried, he couldn’t. And that was interesting, too, that it wasn’t that he was always successful. You know, and there’s great sadness that he had that his pupils got wiped out, you know, the capacity. So, so you get this picture of a very human, you know, an awakened person that’s interacting in a very human relational field. And those examples, don’t really, you know, you get this idea of a Stone Buddha, and then not really how he was a flesh and blood person interacting, and how some of the teachings he did went well, and some of them didn’t go so well. And some of the disciples didn’t get the message. And then they did crazy things and how people were trying to kill him and how people were constantly putting him down and arguing with him. But how he kept met, he met all of the circumstances. So it’s a much more fully invalid, bloody bullet, kind of sense of an embodied The person Yeah, we’re really done. This is a good template for us, I think, you know, not just Enlightenment sitting on a stone immovable person that actually engaged getting things wrong failing, considering readjusting, starting again. But kind of impacting as well and looking at systemic levels, not just as personal work awakening. Yeah. Yeah,
Rick Archer: that’s kind of what we were talking about earlier. You know, people not being an activist without the the entertainment and not just focusing on the entertainment to the exclusion of outer engagement. But it was an example of that, which I hadn’t known before reading your book. Alright, well, I know you’re in the middle of a retreat, and you got a very tight schedule. So we should probably wrap it up. Any final words you want to say before we do?
Kittisaro: Well, I just, I feel grateful that you in the organization, with at the gas pump has given us this opportunity to meet and discuss the spiritual path and its relationship to our own well being and the well being of the collective. And it really feels like an honor to listen. So thank you for this opportunity.
Rick Archer: Thank you. And incidentally, I’m sure you’ve got it. But I’ve actually gotten a couple of emails over the years from people saying, How dare you put Buddha at the Gas Pump? Buddha is a god. Yeah, this is profane to say that, but the whole implication of the title is that, you know, in this day and age, people of all sorts are awakening and quite ordinary looking people that you might be standing next to at a gas station could have profound inner awakening, that’s
Kittisaro: Yeah, I’ll tell you who wouldn’t have been upset is the Buddha wouldn’t be
Rick Archer: able to say what’s up gas pump. Great.
Thanissara: I also want to add my thanks, Rick, and your team, and thank you all very much in the patience of getting all of the technology set up.
Rick Archer: Thank you, because it is, there’s a lot involved. Sometimes I’ve already got all the technical difficulties, and you’re really, really busy. And you’ve been very patient in helping us work that out with you,
Thanissara: you you the guys doing it. But I also just, you know, we do live in these extraordinarily challenging times is very intense. And I just wanted to encourage us all, even though we don’t know the outcomes of, you know, so it’s an incredible time to be around actually. But to encourage us all that it’s not. It’s, it’s not nothing to really work at the shifts of consciousness that we’ve been talking about and pointing to these, these have an incredible impact. They can ripple out and contribute to these, as well as the engagement in activism that we’re doing contribute to these those tipping points that I think we will see more and more in the next 10 years, we’re seeing increasing intensity, and destruction. But we’re also going to see an increase of these awakening this new world that’s trying to be born. And so it’s, you know, it’s exciting, I’m glad we can share, you know, talking about these themes, and you know, share this with your, your, your platform and your your followers. Thank you for that.
Rick Archer: Yeah, one final line for your book, we should not underestimate the deep, psychotic patriarchal dinosaur that in its belligerence and hatred would rather see a burnt and tortured Earth and give up its quest for domination. But you know, what happened to the dinosaurs? So I have a feeling that, like you said, there’s going to be some destruction and some collapsing of cherished structures and institutions and, and ways of living that really have proven their, their unworthiness to exist in a more enlightened world. And it should be an interesting time to live through.
Thanissara: Correct? Absolutely.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Well, thanks. Let me just make a couple of concluding remarks. So I’ve been I’ve been speaking with Kittisaro and Thanissara , and hopefully got those pronunciations right after all this. And I will be linking to their website from their page on batgap.com, and to their books, and so on. So if you happen to be listening to this while you’re driving your car or something, and you want to find them just go to batgap.com. And then you’ll see their page, or you can search for their page if you’re listening to this for a year, a year from now, and you can follow the links there to get to their site to their books, and so on. This is an ongoing series and if you’d like to be notified each time a new episode is posted then subscribe on YouTube and or subscribe to the email notification thing that I send out. Every time there’s a new interview, you’ll see a place for that on that gap. And also, I just mentioned audio podcast this this exists as one of those as well as the videos so if you’d like to subscribe on it tunes or Stitcher are one of those platforms. There’s a podcast link on batgap.com and a bunch of other stuff if you explore the menus. So thanks for listening or watching and we’ll see you next week. And thank you Kittisaro and Thanissara.
Thanissara: Thank you so much.
Rick Archer: It’s been a pleasure enjoy the rest of your retreat and please apologize to the folks attending it if I’ve kept to overtime.
Thanissara: No, not at all
Rick Archer: okay, great. Thank you.
Thanissara: Good bye.