Rabbi Rami Shapiro Transcript

Rabbi Rami Shapiro Interview

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 nearly 600 of them now over the last 11 years, so if this is new to you and you’d like to check out some of the previous ones, go to batgap.com, B-A-T-G-A-P, and look under the past interviews menu, where you’ll see them all organized in several different ways. This program is made possible through the support of appreciative listeners and viewers, so if you appreciate it and would like to help support it, there’s a PayPal button on every page of the website, and there’s also a page of other ways of doing it if you don’t want to deal with PayPal. My guest today is Rabbi Rami Shapiro. I’ll just read his bio here. Rabbi Rami is a Jewish practitioner of perennial wisdom. He’s an award-winning author of over 36 books on religion and spirituality. He received rabbinical ordination from the Hebrew Union College, Jewish Institute of Religion, and holds a PhD in religion from Union Graduate School. A rabbinic chaplain with the US Air Force for three years, a congregational rabbi for 20, and a professor of religious studies for 10, Rabbi Rami currently co-directs the One River Foundation, is a contributing editor at Spirituality and Health magazine, and hosts the magazine’s bi-weekly podcast Essential Conversations with Rabbi Rami. Today we’re going to do a little bit of an experiment, because as those of you who listen to the show regularly know, I usually spend a lot of hours during the week before an interview listening to the person’s talks and interviews and stuff, and reading their book or books. But Rabbi Rami said this, he said, “I prefer we simply have a conversation that isn’t pre-scripted. I don’t want Rick to read anything, even though he’s written a gazillion books, nor am I at all interested in talking about what I’ve already written. But if Rick just trusts us to have a conversation about what he is interested in, I think that will be more valuable.” So that’s what we’re going to do, and as Rabbi Rami said to me a few minutes ago, that’s Larry King style, he did a show every night, he didn’t have time to prepare much for all these interviews, and he actually wanted to know as little about the person as his audience possibly knew, so that he would ask the sort of questions they would ask. And I think that Rabbi Rami and I, and most of you watching this, are all interested in many of the same things. So I don’t think we’re going to have a problem with this. Although I did cheat, Rabbi Rami, and I just looked at your website about an hour ago and went through those interesting points on perennial wisdom, on Judaism, on Divine Mother, on recovery, on holy rascals, and I copied that stuff down. So if I get desperate, I’ll look at those. So, good to see you, and good to meet you, and thanks for doing this.

Rami: Thanks for having me, Rick, it’s nice to be here.

Rick: So, I think it’s typically we start interviews by just getting to know the person a little bit, so people know who it is they’re listening to, and how it is that he knows what he’s talking about. So why don’t you give us an overview of your background?

Rami: Yeah, let me start by saying you should never assume people know what they’re talking about.

Rick: Well, it’s relative.

Rami: Especially if they talk for a living, which is what I do. But the basic background is I grew up in a modern Orthodox Jewish home, which I found essentially meaningless to my life.

Rick:And for those of us who are not Jewish, what does Orthodox mean? Not the guys with the long sideburns, somewhere in between.

Rami: No, that’s more extreme than my parents. But we kept a kosher home, I still keep a kosher home. We did most of the rituals, but we had no, there was nothing behind them. There was no spirituality, there was no meaning to it other than you’re a Jew, this is what Jews do, so this is what you’re going to do. And I lived that way most of my, I grew up there, so until I was in high school when two of my teachers in my junior year of high school, or I guess it was my sophomore year in the summer, they went to India, they got a grant to study what they called Asian civilization. And when they came back, my last two years of high school were steeped in taking electives with them on Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism, and that stuff really spoke to me. Because what they taught wasn’t the ritual, what they taught was the philosophy, and I was just interested in that stuff. So I moved out of orthodoxy as quickly as possible and moved into Buddhism. I wanted to be a Zen Buddhist, that was my ultimate goal. Studied philosophy, studied religion, Jewish Buddhist in college. And then as I was preparing to graduate and go to graduate school to get my credential to be a Buddhist studies professor, my Zen master, Joshu Sasaki Roshi, cornered me at a retreat, literally backed me against a wall. And he told me that university graduate school would ruin Buddhism for me, and that if I really wanted to understand Buddhism, I should move into the monastery. His monastery was Mount Baldy outside of Los Angeles. Move there, learn Japanese, because his English was poor, and study Zen on the cushion rather than in the classroom. And I’d been there, I’d visited the place, I was not interested. If I’m going to a monastery, it has to have hot and cold running water, showers, and flush toilets. That’s like minimum for me. So I knew I wasn’t going to do that, but I didn’t know what to say, and I just blurted out, literally without any preconceived expectation I was going to do this, I just blurted out, “Roshi, I can’t do that. I’m going to become a rabbi.” And then he said, “Oh, be a rabbi, be Zen rabbi.” I said, “Okay, I’ll be a Zen rabbi, but just back off.” And that’s sort of how it went. He was right about graduate school, it was terrible in Buddhist studies. I switched to Judaic studies very quickly within the first semester, and then went on to take my interest in Hinduism and Buddhism and mysticisms in general, and use that as the lens through which I reengaged with Judaism, both as a philosophy and as a practice. That’s great.

Rick: That’s great. I noticed behind you there you have Jesus on the cross, you have some Arabic thing, you have an Aum symbol, you have some kind of a little scroll up in one corner. I can’t see who that other guy is, but you definitely have most of the bases covered.

Rami: Right, a lot of the symbolism, but it’s actually Mary on the cross, you can’t tell.

Rick: Yikes.

Rami: It’s a gift I was given last I was in Israel leading an interfaith pilgrimage, and we saw this crucifix with Mary on the cross holding Jesus, and it really spoke to me as the crucified mother being more than the crucified son, I think, outside of Christian context. We’ve crucified the mother, we’ve killed the mother, and I think we’re living in a time when she’s resurrecting, and it’s going to be what the Hindus call the Kali Yuga, it’s going to be a time of absolute collapse of human civilization, and as a way of preparing ourselves, cleansing ourselves for a rebirth.

Rick: Well, you just gave me goosebumps. I’m feeling chills all over because this resonates very deeply with me, and let’s divert right into this discussion. So perhaps first elaborate on what you were just saying, what it means, what the crucified mother really means, and then I’ll have plenty of questions.

Rami: Yeah, I mean, we went from, of course I’m romanticizing prehistory here, but we went from a matriarchal society, nature-honoring society, a mother-honoring society, both mothers, actual mothers, physical, biological mothers, but also the mother, as our archetype of reality, and we probably with the onset of agriculture maybe, but everything shifted to patriarchal religion, and Judaism is at the pinnacle of patriarchy, as is Christianity and Islam, but we moved to this patriarchal and parochial kind of religion, and that has brought us ecological devastation, that’s brought us pandemics. I think that when you look at what’s going on, not just climate change, but which brings on these, and I just heard it again, someone said, “Oh, the storm of the century.” No, it was the storm of the century 20 years ago, now we’ve got a new storm of the century; it’s a storm, a mighty, massive, unprecedented storm maybe every, I don’t know, really, every few decades. The same thing with the pandemic.

Rick: Even more often, every year we have storms of the century.

Rami: Yeah, right, okay, and fires and all this stuff. The earth is trying to shake us off, we’re like kudzu, and she’s got to get the numbers down so it’s a more manageable thing, but all of this, I think, is because we’ve lost the wisdom of the mother, of the divine mother, in those Jungian archetypal terms, and that wisdom is the wisdom of interconnectedness, the wisdom of interdependence, the wisdom of cooperation, mutuality, all those things are in patriarchal religions, but they’re just not emphasized, and that devolution into patriarchy is, I think, the root cause of 90% of our problems, let’s say, and that the solution is going to be a radical shift, but it’s not going to be comfortable, it’s not going to be graceful, it’s not going to be slow, it’s going to entail the collapse of the norms that we have lived by for centuries, and the question we have to ask ourselves is, are we going to collapse mindfully or mindlessly? Are we going to collapse compassionately or cruelly? And are we going to collapse with a sense of grace or just a sense of horror? And I think it’s all about horror, cruelty, and mindlessness, that’s what it looks like to me, but it doesn’t have to be that way, but I think that’s where we’re at at the moment, and that’s not the way to go.

Rick: Do you know who Dwayne Elgin is?

Rami: I know the name.

Rick: Yeah. I can reach it. I just started reading his book called Choosing Earth, and I’ve interviewed him before, and I’ll be interviewing him again, but he’s saying basically what you’re saying, but he lays out three scenarios. One could be complete collapse, which we don’t really recover from in the foreseeable future, just a sort of a hellscape on Earth. Another could be a complete collapse that’s followed by a sort of a Chinese-style, AI-dominated, authoritarian society, and the third could be complete collapse, followed by a sort of a restructuring and a resurgence into a very bright kind of a heaven on Earth kind of age. Obviously, we would all prefer the third one, and I don’t know if he’s placing bets on one or the other, but he said if we play our cards right, we could end up with option three. It’s not too late for that to be possible. Any thoughts on that?

Rami: Well, I agree, and I agree that if we play our cards right, we can get the third option. I don’t know, because I haven’t read that book, so I don’t know what it means to play our cards right, but if you asked me what would be part of playing our cards right, it would be for individuals to take on a kind of spiritual practice that would, in Jewish terms, in Hebrew terms, they talk about being of two minds. One is mochin dekatnut, narrow mind, ego mind, egoic mind, where it’s us against them and me against you, and I’m apart from nature and God and everything else. And the other is called mochin degadlut, spacious mind, where I’m a part of the whole. And spiritual practices, every religion has them, and I’m not talking about formal liturgical, go to church, go to mosque, go to temple, go to synagogue. I’m talking about meditative practices, though it doesn’t always have to be silent, sitting cross-legged on a mat. But contemplative practices that allow the egoic mind to drop of its own accord and for you to experience something greater, that direct experience of the vastness to which we are apart. I think that has got to be part of the mix, and if it is, I think that shifts us from, you know, to that more ideal third scenario that he lays out.

Rick: I absolutely agree. And, you know, I mean, people who are concerned about climate change and all, they’ll be saying things like, “Well, we’ve got to get off of fossil fuels and we need to get electric cars, and we need to get more wind turbines,” and all that stuff, which is true. And some of them will say, “We need to change our way of thinking, we need to be less selfish and short-sighted,” and so on, and that of course is also true. But not too many bring in the element of how we achieve that, and I think it’s exactly what you just said, that enough people have to sort of shift into what we might call “cosmic consciousness” or “universal awareness” or what, you know, just being sort of living their lives in tune with divine intelligence, and then when enough people do that, then collective consciousness will shift in a big way. And that is the most pivotal or fundamental or influential level at which change could occur, although all the other levels of change are also necessary, the technological stuff and everything.

Rami: Right. Yeah, no, I totally agree. I don’t think it’s an either/or. It’s a both/and.

Rick: Yes, exactly. And that shift in consciousness will actually help those who are developing better technologies, and it’ll kind of enliven the field of, I think, intelligence or creativity and steer things in the right direction, because a lot of times our technological advances turn out to be retreats. You know, there are unintended consequences from them, and just because our thinking hasn’t been comprehensive or deep enough or guided enough.

Rami: Yeah. And also, and Elgin, he doesn’t have a fourth alternative. I could think of a fourth alternative to the three you mentioned, and that is for the very wealthy to get off the planet and go set up some, you know, utopian society for themselves, and there’ll be two classes, the super wealthy who get to go and then the people who do all the work that they will bring with them, you know, to sustain them. I think a lot of people — not a lot, I wouldn’t know the number, but that whole singularity movement, the post-human movement, the off-planet movement, let’s get to Mars, let’s terraform Mars, rather — I mean, we should work on the Earth first.

Rick: Yeah.

Rami: And I don’t — the idea of escape is not necessarily one that I value, though almost every religion has its escapism scenario, right? There’s a heaven after — there’s a life after this life and another dimension, another plane, it’s so much better there. You know, it’s all about getting out of here. Transcendence can be a drug, you know, an addiction. And I think one of the shifts that happens when we move from the patriarchal masculine paradigm to the matriarchal divine feminine paradigm is you move from this transcendence to eminence, but ultimately you realize that both terms are incomplete without — each is incomplete without the other, because there is no up or down. There’s just this infinite — I think you called it the divine intelligence or whatever you want to call it — there’s just this infinite happening, to translate the Jewish word for God, the YHVH, the unpronounceable name for God, comes from the verb to be. So there’s just this infinite being, not a supreme being, not a personal being, but just being itself or happening itself that includes eminence and transcendence. And contemplative practice put you — help you realize that you are an expression of that the way a wave is an expression of the ocean. And then the work you do on the environment, then the work you do politically and economically and socially, is all — it becomes non-dual and non-zero. In other words, it’s always win-win when you realize you can’t win unless everybody wins.

Rick: yeah. I have a good friend who instructed Elon Musk in meditation, and they were — I don’t know if he still practices it, but they were chatting with each other and talking about what they’d like to achieve, and my friend said, “I’d like to get more people in Africa meditating.” And Elon Musk said, “I want to colonize Mars.”

Rami: Yeah, there you go. So I want to ask you a question, because we’re talking about meditation, and over your — it looks to me — over your right shoulder is somebody. Picture of Amma, the so-called hugging saint.

Rami: Hugging saint, yeah. It looked like her, but I wasn’t 100% sure. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So I mean, that’s just another example of what the mother paradigm is all about. Rather than — and I don’t mean to insult my friends who are into different traditions — but rather than bowing down and touching the feet of the guru or the swami. And I’ve had this done to me in India, and they told me, “This is not about you, it’s just a custom.” And I get all that. But to be hugged by this woman who channels the divine so exquisitely, it’s much better. I’ve never done it. So have you met her?

Rick: Oh yeah, I’ve seen her. Aside from the pandemic, we’ve seen her every year for about 20 years. Spent quite a bit.

Rami: You’ve been hugged.

Rick: Many times. Yeah. Right?

Rami: So tell me if I’m wrong, because now I’m just romanticizing it. But from what I’ve read and heard from people who have done it, that you feel yourself enwrapped by the divine. Yes. And it’s a kind of surrendering to her holding you.

Rick: Yeah.

Rami: Is that fair?

Rick: It is. There’s something very profound going on. In addition to my own experience with her, I’ve watched others for hours on end as the program progresses, and I’ve seen big tough football player types come up there and just break down in tears. And my subjective experience of it is that she just embodies vastness. And so when I have that experience of darshan with her, there’s a entrainment, and I become vast also, more clearly than I may have already been experiencing. And I also feel that she has a deep insight into you. I’ve had instances where I’ve come up and in the 30 second or one minute encounter I have with her, since there are thousands of people in line, she taps right into something, knows exactly what’s going on, or at least says a word or two or does a word or two, and it changes my life. Like, you know, she’s kind of sitting at the master switchboard, and all she has to do is tweak a few little knobs and things change in a big way. So it’s been a powerful engine on my train.

Rami: I envy you. I went to, I’ll tell you two quick Amma stories. I went to hear her in Nashville. I spent hours– I don’t know if she ever went to Nashville, I didn’t know that. She didn’t. So I spent hours listening, and I’m waiting for her to come out, and then this woman comes out, and she gives a talk, and then she leaves. And I said to some of the priests at the temple where this was happening, I said, “Wait, what about the hugging?” And they said, “Wrong Amma.” Oh yeah, Amma just means mother. There’s lots of Ammas. I know.

Rami: I got– I misread the advertising. But there was a–this is a long time ago–a reporter from NPR who went to see her somewhere, and she was very skeptical. I mean, this is–she’s interviewing people in line, and oh, this is silly, and she was really–I don’t know if snarky is the right word, but she was very, very skeptical. But she went through it, and so it was her turn. And the mic is on, and she goes up, and she gets this hug, and you hear her go, “Oh my God.” And something happened. It was so unrehearsed, and I was going to say spontaneous, but that’s redundant. It was so spontaneous that it couldn’t have been faked. It was just an authentic response to what she had just experienced. And I think–and then I’ll stop on this track–but I think, though I’ve again never been hugged by her, that the kind of contemplative practice I’m talking about takes you to the same experience, where you feel the vastness, as you put it, and you feel surrendered to that vastness, or to the divine–depends on how you want to language it–but you feel surrendered to that in such a way that you realize your own vastness. You realize your own oceanic nature, your own vastness. You realize you are a part of, and never apart from, this dynamic whole. And that changes everything. In our relationships to one another, in our relationships to the planet, to nature, everything changes that way. I think people need–and it’s impossible, probably–but people need the experience–not just reading about it in a book, not just hearing it over NPR–but they need the experience of this surrendered transformation in order to know how to engage the world in the way I’m suggesting it needs to be engaged.

Rick: Well, I don’t think it’s impossible. It’s entirely possible. And if all I ever did was see Amma once a year or something like that, that would not be adequate for me. I’ve had a regular practice for over 50 years involving hours a day, and it’s been very rewarding. I just think this spiritual evolution business is kind of a lifelong project, and if you can find an effective practice and stick with it, it’ll be a life well-lived. It’ll have a profound cumulative effect.

Rami: So can you tell us what you do?

Rick: Yeah, I learned TM when I was 18, in 1968, and I was a teacher of it for many years. And these days–I’m making this a short story–went on many long courses, six months here, six weeks there, and so on, and then started seeing Amma in ’99, and eventually got a mantra from her, which I use TM-style a couple hours a day, two or three hours a day, on a regular basis.

Rami: Yeah, I think mantra practice is really vital. And I’m assuming–well, I don’t know, tell us. Are you sitting or are you levitating?

Rick: Nope, I got lead in my pants. I’m just sitting there. But from day one for me, it had a huge effect, learning to meditate. It changed my life. I was a high school dropout, getting involved in all kinds of difficulties and problems. And within a month or two I was back in school and got a job, and it just turned me around. So that relates to something you said a few minutes ago, transcendence as an escape. I think some people can use it as an escape, perhaps, but I see it more like when you go to the bank to withdraw some money, it’s not an escape. It’s a preparation to go back to the market, and then you have some money in your pockets, and you can spend the money.

Rami: Yeah, that’s right.

Rick: Yeah, so meditation kind of charges your batteries, and then you get back into activity. The Gita says yoga is skill in action. It sets you up for a more successful life in the world.

Rami: Yeah, I totally agree with that. I don’t know if people are familiar with the ten ox-herding pictures of Zen Buddhism. The eighth one, if I remember them right, the eighth one is just the Enso. It’s blank. The person is gone. In the Heart Sutra, “gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhisvaha,” gone, gone, gone beyond even the idea of gone. And then the ninth one is nature returns. There’s a sense of nature coming back. And then the tenth one is the seeker now having experienced this greater reality of which the seeker is a part, comes back very large, very powerful, and comes back into the village as the village elder, the sage, whatever, whatever you want to call it. And it is.

Rick: But he’s riding the ox, which means that he is kind of a master, he’s established as the transcendent and yet engaged in the activity, too, right?

Rami: Yeah, I actually have to look at it. I don’t think he’s riding the ox anymore. I think the ox has been internalized.

Rick: Oh, you may be right. And he’s just coming back into the village. But the idea is the same, that the difference between transcendence and immanence is now gone. He’s fully alive, fully awake, and now he’s just in the world, however the world presents itself to her or him.

Rick: Yeah. There’s another verse in the Gita where, well, there’s one verse where Krishna says to Arjuna, “Transcend, be without the three gunas.” And then a few verses later he says, “Established in yoga,” or “established in being, form, action.” So it’s just the same point over again. Sometimes meditation has a reputation for being an escapist kind of thing, like, “What are you going to do about the world? You’re just selfish to sit there with your eyes closed.” People said that to me when I first learned. But like getting a good night’s sleep or many things we do to prepare for activity, it’s a preparation. It makes you more effective in activity and a more fulfilled human being.

Rami: Yeah, I mean, I think so. I agree with you. I think that when people are engaged in very important social justice issues, environmental justice, I mean, there’s so many things that need to be addressed. And they come at those without, and this is obviously my bias, but without a spiritual grounding. And by that I mean an ongoing practice. I think it becomes, first of all, it’s very draining, I think. And second of all, it becomes very egoic. I’ve got the answer or my group has got the answer and we’re going to just do it our way, as opposed to the humility that comes with spiritual practice that allows you to engage the world more powerfully, but not more violently, I guess you might say.

Rick: Yeah. And this humility, that’s a delicate thing too, because I’ve met many spiritual practitioners who have said, “Well, I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to do it.” And I’ve probably been one myself at times who were not very humble and who did think that their way was the best, or gave other people a hard time about what they were doing, and kind of adopted this holier-than-thou attitude. So I think that on the spiritual path there’s this balancing act of integration and purification and stabilization and growth. You’re juggling all these balls, but humility is an important one. And I think also discrimination or discernment is an important one, because it’s sometimes easy to get caught up on tangents, caught up in tangents and kind of go off the track.

Rami: Yeah. And sometimes it’s, with all the right intention, you’ve had an experience and you go, “My God, this has changed my life. You need to do this. It’ll change your life.” And it’s done with the right intention, but maybe with the wrong energy. And that comes with practice. And that takes, well, it just takes a bit of time to get to that place of being convinced that there is a way, there is a transformation, there is a capacity for transformation, and not to assume there’s only one way to get there.

Rick: Yeah. I’m often saying God is not a one-trick pony. And sometimes when I’ve been confronted by religious fundamentalists, I find myself beginning to discuss astronomy, because if you consider the vastness of the universe life throughout the universe. And so on, you know, trillions of inhabited planets probably, although that’s a little hard to reconcile if you think the universe is 6,000 years old. And probably a good percentage of those planets, or the inhabited planets, probably all of them have some sort of spiritual traditions and religions and so on. And I wonder what percentage of those think that theirs is the only way, or theirs is the best. Probably many of them. So it’s just absurd when you expand it out that far to think that about anything on our planet being exclusive or unique.

Rami: Yeah. I mean, the flip side is, I mean, you don’t have to go off-world to make the point. You know, I mean, I, just, you know, Rami, by myself, think that, I forget how many was it, two billion Christians on the planet who believe that, you know, Jesus is the only son of God as opposed to all life being a child of the divine. And I think that’s a really important point. You know, there are billions of people who take the phrase from John where Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through me.” Billions of people take that literally, and I say to them, “Wrong.” So much for humility, right? No, you’re missing the point. I was once in Israel, confronted by this Anglican priest who said to me, I don’t know if you know this term, that C.S. Lewis’s trilemma. I’ve read C.S. Lewis, but I don’t remember that term. So this is something he came up with when he was doing the BBC radio shows during World War II. And he said that trilemma means that you only have three options in the situation he sets you up with. So he says, when Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me,” is he a liar? Is he a lunatic, or is he Lord? And in C.S. Lewis’s mind, no one would call Jesus a liar or a lunatic, so, ta-da, you must say that he’s Lord. I was in Israel at this Anglican center, and this priest came over, and she tossed that at me. She knew I was a rabbi, and she said, so which is it? Is he a liar, a lunatic, or Lord? And I said, I reject the trilemma. There’s a fourth option. And to her credit, she’d never thought about it, and she said, really, what is it? And I said, Jesus is a God-realized mystic, that when he is saying, “I am,” he’s referring to the “I am” revealed in Exodus, the singular subject that is all reality. And he’s saying, “I am” is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the “I am” except through the “I am” consciousness, which he embodied. Anyone can do that. I mean, there’s practice involved, but she had never thought of it. And again, to her credit, she said, well, I have to think about that. So, it’s, like I said at the top of the show, I looked at Judaism through the lens of mysticism and I look at all religions through that lens. And then when I do that, I end up with what’s called the perennial wisdom that says the “I am” consciousness is the way, the truth, and the life. And everyone has access to that, because everyone is an expression of that.

Rick: Yeah, and it’s closer than your breath, you know? I mean, it’s right here, it permeates, it pervades everything. Yeah, Rumi says it’s closer, God’s closer than your jugular.

Rick: Yeah.

Rami: Yeah.

Rick: So, that’s encouraging, because it means that it’s not far removed from us. And in fact, nothing could be closer. And so, it should be the easiest thing to tap into, really, if we just sort of have the trick on how to tap in.

Rami: Right, I mean, it’s the Hindu Upanishad saying, “Tat tvam asi,” “You are it,” you know? And that’s why it’s so hard to get, because you’re trying to get it as if it weren’t you. And that false sense of separation is the problem.

Rick: Yeah, that’s good. There’s also a verse in the Gita which says, “No effort is lost and no obstacle exists. Even a little of this dharma removes great fear.” So, any step that you take in that direction bears fruit, to whatever extent.

Rami: Yeah.

Rick: And in fact, one thing I’ve often encountered is, in interviewing people mostly, they reach a certain point in their life where they just either get desperate or fed up, or just the yearning gets so strong and they just say, “Please, help me. I’ve got to find this thing.” And as soon as there’s that sincere entreaty, that sincere intention, stuff happens, you know, through the most interesting coincidences sometimes, just that something comes to them that they can begin progressing with. And a lot of teachers say that, actually, that the desire for God or the desire for realization is the most fundamental technique of all.

Rami: Yeah. I think that when you reach that point, it’s what we call in recovery, “hitting rock bottom.” And at that point, you’re just surrendered, and there’s no—all you can do is say, it’s what Annie Lamott says, “There’s three kinds of prayer—help, thanks, and wow.” So, you hit that help moment, and everything shifts for you if you let it. It’s all about living with what the Chinese call “weiwuwei,” the non-coercive action. So, you’re doing, but you’re not doing from the ego, you’re not doing to get power, you’re just doing because in the moment, this is what needs to be done.

Rick: Yeah.

Rami: And you know it. It’s what Krishnamurti calls “choiceless awareness.” You just sort of know this to be true.

Rick: Yep. It’s row, row, row your boat gently down the stream. You are rowing a bit, you’re just sort of steering this way and that slightly so that your boat doesn’t go off into the rocks or branches, but the stream is really the thing that’s propelling the boat. You’re just kind of making sort of subtle adjustments like you do with the steering wheel when you’re going down the highway.

Rami: Right. But you can get self-driving cars. That’s true. There goes that metaphor.

Rick: You can actually go to sleep while it’s driving. People have been seen doing that. All right, we’re doing good here, we’re on a roll. And at any point during this conversation, just if any thought comes to mind and you want to talk about it, just launch into it, you don’t have to wait for me to ask something.

Rami: Well, let me just say that I mentioned perennial wisdom and we didn’t define it.

Rick: Okay, good idea. Take a second to do that.

Rami: So perennial wisdom is a fourfold teaching at the heart, the mystic heart of all religions. Each religion will articulate it in its own way, but the points are basically the same. They’re very simple. Point number one is that every life is a manifesting of a singular or non-dual aliveness. You can call it God or Tao or Mother or Nature or Brahman, Dharmakaya. I mean, there’s millions of names for this thing. But the language aside, it’s a singularity. It’s just this infinite happening and you and I are happenings of that happening. That’s number one. Number two, human beings have the innate capacity to awaken in, with and as this aliveness. Number three, when you awaken in, with and as this aliveness, you’re called to an ethical standard, to live a certain ethical way. And in Judaism, we would say it’s the golden rule, perhaps. Or Christianity would say it’s the golden rule. But something like that, something that recognizes the mutuality and interdependence of all life for the express purpose, again, to use biblical terms, to be a blessing to all the families of the earth. That’s Genesis 12, 3. And the fourth one is awakening to this aliveness and living as a blessing to all the families of the earth. Those two things comprise the highest calling of any human being. And again, I think you can find in every religion ways of articulating the same four points. But they’re always around. They’re always the same points. And that’s, to go back to where we were in the very beginning, I think that the collapse of patriarchy/parochialism is going to be the rebirth of the divine— I can’t say rebirth, she’s not dead— but a reappreciation of the divine mother, the divine feminine, and perennial wisdom will be part of that shift.

Rick: Yeah, that’s good. I just read an article last night about Swami Muktananda and how later in his life he had a couple strokes and a heart attack and stuff, and then his behavior became very strange, even though he was still teaching and quite brilliant in some ways. But he began messing around with young ladies and so on. And I was corresponding with a friend of mine who used to be with him at that point, and was one of his people helping him write his books and stuff. And we were thinking about it and talking about this idea of the correlation between ethical behavior and enlightenment. And you may know Ken Wilber’s idea of the different lines of development. And I used to always think these lines of development were quite tightly correlated, and that to whatever extent consciousness awoke, there would be a corresponding awakening of ethical behavior and all, intellect and heart and all the other faculties. But I’ve sort of had to conclude after all these years that the correlation is really quite loose, unfortunately. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Rami: Well, I would say that it may be correlated in the following way. I’m not quoting this right, but in the Talmudic literature or in the rabbinic literature somewhere it says, “The greater the saint, the greater the shadow.” That as you expand your consciousness, the shadow also expands. And the trick, if that’s the right word, is to take the energy of the shadow side of our personality and channel it into something good. But you’re never going to become only good. You can’t make mistakes. You can’t let the ego get the better of you. It’s always part of the mix. So my own sense of it is, because I’ve had a lot of teachers and then I found out that lots of them haven’t lived up to the hype, I think you have to focus on the teaching and not attach to the teacher. Yeah, but if the teaching is really worth its salt, shouldn’t the teacher reflect the efficacy of it? As best the teacher can, but that doesn’t mean the teacher’s ever going to be perfect because of that ongoing shadow side. I’ve had people try to excuse the behavior of their teacher when it’s really vile. I won’t give specifics because I don’t want to insult anybody, but I was with a friend who was a disciple of a Buddhist and was a raging alcoholic.

Rick: Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

Rami: He often became violent. She told this story about she was at a retreat and he was drunk and he became violent and he started to chase her around the room with a butcher knife saying, “I’m going to kill you.” And she took it literally and ran for her life and got in her car and drove away. And then I don’t know how long later, but as she was driving away from the retreat, she realized, she said to herself, “He was trying to show me my own mortality.” So she drove back and said, “No, it wasn’t what it looked like. He was trying to show me my own mortality.” Luckily for her, he had fallen asleep by the time she got there. I get what you’re saying. It’d be nice if people lived up to the teachings. I think everyone wrestles with it, even gurus. So I think we have to be healthfully skeptical of our teachers and not expect the impossible, but not denigrate the teaching because the teacher can’t live up to it.

Rick: Well, first of all, I’m rather skeptical of her rationalization.

Rami: Yeah, well, me too.

Rick: And secondly, I would again make the point that, why do we engage in a teaching anyway? Well, we want some benefit from it. We want to become a better person. We want to become enlightened. We want to be more compassionate, or whatever the benefits of a teaching supposedly are. And I know that nobody’s perfect. We’re all works in progress, everyone who walks the Earth or has walked it. But again, you would expect a teacher to embody, to be somewhat of an example of the value of the teaching. And if he isn’t, if it’s that extreme as you’re saying, then you really have to question, maybe he’s eloquent or whatever, he has a bright intellect or something, but the teaching doesn’t seem to have affected him that much. Unless he would have been even worse if he hadn’t been engaged in it.

Rami: Well, that’s what I’m saying, you can still have respect for the teaching, even if not for the teacher. Do you remember Eugene Herrigel?

Rick: No.

Rami: He wrote a book called Zen and the Art of Archery.

Rick: I remember the book, yes.

Rami: When I was in high school, man, you had to read that, even in college and Buddhist classes, everyone, “Oh, you got to read Herrigel.” And it turns out that after he became “enlightened” through his Zen archery studies, he went back to Germany in the 30s and he became a Nazi. How can an enlightened Buddhist become a Nazi?

Rick: Yeah. Well, actually, many of the Nazis were really into Vedic religion and Vedic studies. I think it was Goebbels or one of those guys carried a Gita around in his pocket. It’s possible to take a teaching and warp it to extreme degrees. I mean, look at how many people have been killed in the name of Christianity or other religions. Huge number.

Rami: No, look at, just because you brought up the Gita, look at Hindu nationalism, where there’s Hindu priests preaching violence against Muslims in the name of their Hinduism. You get some of these ultra-Orthodox, right-wing Orthodox settlers in Israel who in the name of Torah, which says, “Love the stranger and don’t oppress the powerless.” And you have them sanctifying or sanctioning all kinds of evil vis-à-vis the Palestinians. So, yeah, I mean, they’re humans. That’s the problem. That’s why if Elon Musk ever makes it to Mars, it’s still going to suck after a while, because he’s bringing humans.

Rick: Yeah, it already sucks on Mars. I wouldn’t want to live there.

Rami: Nice place to visit, but wouldn’t want to. Yeah, don’t get stuck there like Matt Damon. I don’t know if you watch that movie.

Rami: Yeah, I’ll go with Arnold Schwarzenegger, when he gets there and brings water back. I forgot what the total recall.

Rick: But anyway, let’s wrap up this point, but I think there’s a bit more we can squeeze out of it. I don’t know if we’ve totally resolved it, but here’s a way of going at it. You know what you were saying in the beginning about how spirituality, deep experiential spirituality on more of a mass scale, might be the secret ingredient that could turn collapse into a brighter future eventually. And we talked about that quite a bit. So, yeah, I agree. And that’s why I feel like spiritual teachers behaving so badly, it kind of sabotages the project, you know? And it disillusions the heck out of people.

Rami: Yeah, I can’t disagree with that. But I still don’t want people to say, “Well, therefore I’m not going to meditate. I’m not doing that.” The practice and the experience that you can gain from the practice is what matters to me, and not so much the perfection of the teacher.

Rick: Oh, I agree. And there was once a well-known spiritual teacher, somebody asked him how many followers he has, and he apparently had hundreds of thousands of them, and he said, “I don’t have any followers. Everyone follows their own experience, their own benefits.” And that’s the kind of way I see it. I don’t care if every spiritual teacher that ever lived turned out to be a scoundrel. My own experience is enough to keep me going.

Rami: Yeah, right.

Rick: Yeah. All right, well, we may loop back to this, but let’s keep moving here. So, another section on your web page was on Judaism, and a bunch of quotes and points about Judaism and the way you teach it. Do you want to say some things about that?

Rami: Unless you want to raise something specific. I mean, Judaism is my mother tongue. I think that when Judaism is read through a mystical lens, a lens of non-duality, I think it’s a very, very rich tradition. I think that when it’s read through a tribal lens, it’s pretty silly. So, I have a new book coming out, hopefully next year, called “Judaism Without Craziness.” And the craziness for me is the notion that there’s one God separate from the universe who created the universe, who chose the Jews from among all the peoples of the Earth. That’s what we say every time we read the Torah. Part of the blessing is “B’har banu miko ha-amin,” that God chose us from among all the peoples of the Earth. God chose us from among all the peoples to receive God’s one and only revelation of the Torah, because we don’t think the Gita is revelatory, we don’t think the Holy Koran is revelatory. So, God chose us to receive the Torah and gave us the deed to the promised land in perpetuity, regardless of who was there before we got there or who was there when we got back. I mean, that to me is crazy. That’s pure tribal jingoism, that’s pure marketing. Every religion has it, right? To say that Muhammad is the seal of the prophets is a way of saying, “Our prophet’s better than your prophet, so join us.” To say that Jesus is the only son of God is the same thing. It’s all about marketing, and every religion is trying to market itself as the true faith, because on the surface, they don’t agree. It can’t be that God has a son and doesn’t have a son, right? Because Islam and Judaism say, “No, God doesn’t have kids.” So, you can’t have it both ways. So, maybe all of those things are a bit crazy, and the mystics have it right. So, I mean, Judaism is a tremendously rich tradition that tries to integrate what you were saying before, the transcendent with the imminent. And it doesn’t see … It’s not, as in some Christianities, faith alone. It’s faith and works. It’s that your belief in the divine sends you into the world to be a holy being. So, it’s something that I absolutely respect when it’s not hanging from what I call the craziness. I mean, I keep a very Jewish life. I observe the Shabbat in my own way, I observe kosher in my own way, but it’s always my way, not the way my parents did it.

Rick: Yeah. For some reason, as you were saying that, I was reminded of when, I think it might have been Voyager 1, went out pretty far in the solar system and took a photo of Earth from that perspective. And you could see Earth as this little tiny dot. And Carl Sagan made some comment about how looking at that little dot and then considering that all of the bloodshed and the wars and the fighting over little tiny bits of territory on that little dot to dominate it for some little short blip of time in the vast scheme of things. Just the absurdity of that.

Rami: Yeah. I mean, there is a terminal absurdity to human thinking, right? It’s a craziness. But when you were talking about Voyager 1, I thought you were talking about the first Star Trek movie. That’s where my mind went.

Rick: I remember that movie. Actually, the guy who started that lives in my town. Forget his name. Veejer. He kept saying Veejer. Now, what do you suppose it is? Why is it that people become so myopic? Why do they become so narrow-minded and focused and “my way is the best way” kind of a thing? What is it about human psychology that … Because I doubt that the revered founders of any religion were talking that way, although some of their words are interpreted to mean that kind of thing. But I don’t think they could have been so small-minded and yet have had such an impact.

Rami: Yeah. I mean, first of all, we don’t know what any of them said. We don’t even know if they all really existed as historical figures. We certainly don’t know what they said. But I think the reason why people are so myopic is that people are frightened. I think fear is the motivator. We’re so afraid of dying that we want to have some get-out-of-death-free card. And that’s what religions peddle. Either it’s reincarnation or some heaven realm that you can get to if you follow the rules properly or you have the right beliefs. We’re always trying. I mean, that’s part of the addiction of transcendence, if it’s these other heavenly realms. Or take it outside of normative religion. You say, oh, this life is like a school or life is a school and you go from grade to grade to grade. I mean, all of that, in my mind, is simply a way of avoiding the fact that you die. Nobody wants to die. And we’re so afraid of what that is that we create systems that offer us, promise us, a get-out-of-death-free card. And then you’re afraid that the system isn’t true. How do I prove my system is true and your system is wrong? Well, the standard way of doing it is to show that your God is false and my God is true. And the only way to do that is for my God to kill your God. And the only way for my God to kill your God is for me to kill you. And so we have ongoing religious wars trying to prove whose God is really God in order to prove who’s got the true get-out-of-death-free card. The way around all of that is to realize that, in a sense, well, the ego dies. Sorry. It just does. Rami comes to an end. I just took some, I think it’s called, oh, I don’t know what it’s called. It’s one of those longevity things you can do on the Internet. And it says I’m going to die when I’m 91, which I think is an upgrade from an earlier longevity thing, which had me dying at 77, which is only a few years.

Rick: Do they base those on whether you smoke and how old your parents were and all that kind of stuff?

Rami: Exactly. Exactly. But I’m still going to die. My mom’s 92. Maybe I’ll make it that far. Maybe I won’t. But even if I do, eventually I’m going to die. But I have no fear around that, because what you think happens when you die really depends on who you think you are now. And I think that I am simply God Rami-ing and you’re God Rick-ing, you know, and you’re two dogs. That’s God dog-ing. Dog-ing. And so the extent to which I’m identified as Rami in my own mind, that’s the extent to which I don’t want to die or I fear death. But when I realize that’s not my truest self, then there is no death in that sense. You know, Rami’s gone, but my truest self, which isn’t separate from anything else, is, you know, the wave returns to the ocean, but the ocean continues to wave. So that takes away the fear. And if there’s no fear, it’s hard to get people agitated enough within their religious system to want to kill other people.

Rick: I was listening to a guy the other day and he was saying things like, “Well, if you believe in reincarnation, then you’ll be in reincarnation.” “You’ll be reincarnated. If you don’t, you won’t.” And he went on with half a dozen other things like that. “If you believe it, then this, and if you don’t believe it, then that.” And, you know, the whole while I was thinking that that’s like saying, “If you believe the earth is flat, okay, the earth is flat.” But obviously there’s an objective reality that really doesn’t care what we believe and that works the way it works and is the way it is, regardless of whether or not we understand it. And so why couldn’t some of these beliefs about what happens when you die be like that? Maybe there really is reincarnation and it happens regardless of whether we think it does.

Rami: Well, that’s true. I think the reason that I am not inclined to go in that direction, because of course the opposite could be true. No, it’s not reincarnation. You go to heaven and hell, and if you’re not the right kind of religious person, you go to hell. So it doesn’t really help. But the reason I’m not drawn to that is because the people who speak to me, the great saints and sages of humankind, have all gone beyond this. I’m thinking about people like Ramana Maharshi, who said, “Don’t leave us.” He said, “Where can you go? I mean, it’s just all this.” So when you look at the great saints, whether it’s someone like Mansur Al-Haj in Sufism, who said, “I am truth,” or Jesus, or Abraham Abulafia, who said, “Behold, I am God and God is me.” You find this stuff in every religious tradition. The realization of your true nature being this oceanic reality. Because all of those saints, throughout human history, across human cultures, seem to come to the same realization, I find it convincing. Of course, you could say, “But there are billions of people who think, ‘No, I personally am going to hell.'” I’ve been at seminars where I was singled out. They were Christian seminars where I was singled out as the only non-Christian in the room. People said, “You’re going to burn in hell for all eternity.” It doesn’t bother me because it’s just something I do not believe in. It’s just so far from what I consider to be a credible belief. But it is tremendously motivating if you’re open to it. Because then you go, “Crap, I don’t want to burn for all eternity. How do I not burn?” This one seminar was a battle of the Protestantisms. They were saying, “You don’t burn if you become a Southern Baptist.” Someone said, “No, you’ve got to be a Presbyterian. How do you know?” I told them, “What do you think?” I said, “I like Dante’s circles of hell. I’m hoping to make it to the first circle.” Because that’s where all the cool people are. Buddha and Plato and Lao Tzu. You can hang out with them in the first circle of hell. It’s okay.

Rick: Did you ever watch Emo Phillips’ skit about he runs into a guy who’s about to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge and they start having this conversation? You know what I’m talking about?

Rami: No, I don’t.

Rick: It’s hilarious. Dan, remind me and I’ll put that in the show notes on this and you can watch it too. But very funny skit. Can’t go into it right now. With regard to Ramana Maharshi and others that we could mention, you know what you were saying earlier about the both/and perspective of things, where it’s transcendent and it’s imminent, or it’s unmanifest and it’s manifest, and both dimensions or all the dimensions have their significance? Well, Ramana said that his cow was the reincarnation of some woman who had served him devotedly earlier on, and that the cow got enlightened when she died. Or maybe it was the other way around, the cow got enlightened, I think it was the woman earlier.

Rami: And they built a shrine for the cow.

Rick: Yeah, Lakshmi the cow. So it’s not like he didn’t believe that reincarnation was a thing, and he actually often referred to it, but just that it wasn’t the ultimate thing. It’s what they call in Vedanta, vyavaharika satyam, the transactional reality. It’s still like a room full of pots, it’s only clay, but there are pots, and you don’t deny the existence of the pots, that’s just sort of the relative play of things.

Rami: No, but if you break a pot, it’s not going to reincarnate as another pot.

Rick: True, but metaphors have their limitations, yeah.

Rami: No, I mean, I appreciate what you’re saying. I think that even someone, to me it’s just an example of how even someone who is so awake, as Ramana Maharshi, still is a product of his culture, and this is what comes out. I’ve studied for the last couple of decades, I guess, with a student of his, not direct, one generation removed.

Rick: Michael James or somebody like that? Rabbi No, no, somebody that no one’s ever heard of. He keeps way below the radar. He’s an Indian guy. Anyway, when he explains this stuff, he explains it without the trappings of Indian culture. He looks at reincarnation as, I mean, the way the ocean continues to wave, but it’s never the same wave coming back. The thing with reincarnation often is it’s just another way of being addicted to ego, and this woman came back as a cow. Well, no, that makes no sense, or the cow could become a woman. That means there’s something essential about the woman that came back as a cow or there’s something essential about the cow that becomes something else. There’s nothing essential except the non-dual reality itself. So I have no problem with saying the ocean waves without end, but no wave itself ever comes back. But then you say, “Well, wait a minute. What about people who remember past lives?” Well, I don’t have a problem with that because there’s only one living thing. That’s the ocean, if you like. That’s the divine reality of which you are a part. And if you are sensitive enough, and I’m not, but if one is sensitive enough to tap into more of the oceanic, maybe you do have Akashic records, karmic memories of other things the ocean was doing. The problem is we then identify it with me. Oh, that was me. I mean, I know a number of people who believe they were Cleopatra. I know nobody. I’m not making it up. I know a number of people who say, “I’m a reincarnation of Queen Cleopatra.” Nobody that I’ve ever met was ever a reincarnation of the woman who cleaned up. When Cleopatra took a dump in the bucket, I was the woman who took the bucket out and cleaned it. No one was ever that reincarnation. I think the ego is very powerful, very subtle, and can just weave itself into all of these different things. None of them speak to me at the moment. When I’m dying, maybe then. Maybe then, “Oh, no, I’ve got to go back. This is not done. I didn’t do enough. I want to get more stuff.” Yeah.

Rick: I’m going to play with this a little bit more with you, not to win an argument or convince you of anything, but just to play with the idea because there’s some other wrinkles of it that you’ve probably considered, but maybe we can hash them out. One is the whole near-death experience and out-of-body experience phenomenon, where people go out of body. I’ve spoken to many of them and experience something that they couldn’t possibly have known. Then they come back. There’s this famous story where somebody was undergoing surgery and they left the body. Well, there are many stories where they hear what the surgeons are saying and what music they were playing in the room and all kinds of things. Actually, there was one woman who saw a red sneaker up on the roof of the hospital. Then, sure enough, somebody went up there later and found the sneaker. Those kinds of stories suggest that there’s a subtler aspect to our makeup, which is not just the physical body. Go ahead. You were about to say something?

Rami: Yeah. No. I don’t disagree with those. I don’t challenge those experiences. Just like when you read “Autobiography of a Yogi,” I just recently re-read it. When I read it the first time, I was like, “What are all these sidhis, these powers that all these people…” But I read it the second time and I read it with a more, hopefully, a more mature mind. There’s a guy, Colin Wilson, who has this metaphor of an 88-key piano keyboard. Most of us only play the keys in the center. Chopsticks. Yeah. But some of us, through near-death experience, through psychedelics, through meditation, we can play more keys. I would imagine that there are some people who can play the entire keyboard. I think that when you die, if you have this near-death experience, you’re playing more of the keys. I would go even farther than the two examples. Not only can you see things because your perspective is larger than just what’s between your eyes or behind your eyes, I think that you might even be able to perceive what might be considered the enlightenment experience through near-death. I was once corresponding with… Oh, gosh, his name just went out of my head. But one of the major, not Moody, but someone else, near-death researcher. This is back in the ’80s and ’90s.

Rick: Bruce Grayson? He was at Yale.

Rami: I can’t remember.

Rick: Gary Schwartz?

Rami: No, you can throw out all the names. I can’t remember the guy’s name. I wrote him once and I said, “Here’s what people experience during meditation.” Because he was a scientist. He wasn’t interested in meditation. And then, “It sounds to me exactly what you’re describing in near-death experience.” And he wrote back and said, “No, I think it’s the same thing.” That you’re dropping the limitations of the body-mind and experiencing the full, to mix my metaphors here, to experience the full 88 keys of human consciousness. So, yeah, I have no problem with accepting any of that. And to take it back to the Autobiography of Yogi, I assume it’s possible to do things that look like magic to me, because I’m only playing a few keys, but that someone who can play the whole keyboard can do, and I’m just mesmerized. I don’t understand how they do it. So I’m not limited, I hope, to saying no to any of this stuff. My limitation comes when I imagine that when someone says to me, “So I am other than the universe or the divine consciousness,” I don’t have room in my experience for separation.

Rick: Yeah, no, neither do I. And I take all sorts of beliefs and ideas like this as hypotheses that are interesting to explore. Did Jesus walk on water? Okay, maybe he did. Maybe, can that be tested? Could we find somebody else who can walk on water? And just because we can’t doesn’t mean he didn’t do it. But, you know, picking that as one far-out example. So I’m really open to all this stuff, but nothing that happens is separate from oneness. And yet, in the same breath, all kinds of things happen. So if it’s true that when the gross physical body dies, the anamaya kosha, as they call it, there are still the subtler koshas, the subtler sheaths left, all of that is an appearance in oneness, and it’s not separate from oneness, but living life involves engaging with appearances, even if we don’t take them as ultimately real.

Rami: Yeah, right, I could follow you in that direction.

Rick: Right, and so that woman who saw the red sneaker on the roof of the hospital, and I could cite many other examples, how was she able to do that? Because her physical eyes were in a body that was being operated on under anesthesia, there must be some subtler mechanics of perception which are independent of the grosser physical body. And so if that, yeah, go ahead.

Rami: No, as I said, the question is, is consciousness a byproduct of the brain, or is the brain simply a way of tuning into consciousness?

Rick: What do you think about that?

Rami: I think the second.

Rick: Yeah, me too.

Rami: Yeah, I think the brain is like a receiver.

Rick: Like a radio.

Rami: Yeah, right, and that the spiritual practices and other things simply help you fine-tune the radio so you can reach a broader spectrum.

Rick: Yeah, and if the radio gets damaged, it doesn’t mean that the music isn’t still playing, that other radios can’t pick it up, it’s just this particular radio. Okay, but again, analogies have their limitations, and what we’re saying here is that in addition to the universal music, so to speak, the electromagnetic field which radios detect, that’s as far as that analogy goes, but what we’re saying here is that there could be a sort of a jiva, or a subtle essence to our makeup that survives when the body dies, and that could therefore take on another body. And to me, out-of-body experiences are an interesting bit of evidence for that. And then we get into all kinds of … You want to answer that phone?

Rami: No, I should turn the phone off.

Rick: You want to do that? You can do that.

Rami: There’s actually nobody calling. It’s just somebody trying to sell you car insurance or something. No, it’s something with my … And I can’t even get the phone off my phone. There it goes. It’s something where you get these phantom rings. There’s nobody there.

Rick: Somebody’s butt dialing in. I can’t even register. No, no, there’s no phone involved. It’s some wacko thing, and it happens all day long. I can’t get it to stop. So my only issue here would be, does that subtle consciousness that takes on a new body, is that Rick? Is that Rami? And I would say no, that it wouldn’t be identified. But most people want it to be, whatever their afterlife scenario is, they want it to be recognizably them. When people say to me, “I’m going to die, go to heaven, I’m going to see my grandparents,” well, that means that your grandparents are going to be recognizable to you and that you’re going to be recognizable to them and that somehow it’s the ego that goes. Or when I’ve had people say to me, “They’re going to hell because they do X, Y, and Z.” And then you say, “Well, is the soul that goes to hell, is that the person? Is that the ego?” And they say, “No, no, it’s totally different.” So well, then why punish the soul for what the ego did?

Rick: Yeah, good point.

Rami: This stuff gets very convoluted. I’m infinitely fascinated with it. I could talk about it all day long, but the work is playing as many of the 88 keys as possible in order to make the world a more wholly just, compassionate place.

Rick: So we won’t talk about this particular point all day long. But perhaps for a few more minutes, though. Here’s the point for you. Just that if we consider spiritual evolution to be sort of a vast spectrum of possibility, like you say, we’re playing two or three keys, we want to be able to play 88 keys. Chances are we’re not going to be able to play all 88 keys in the span of one lifetime. But maybe we’ll double the number of keys we can play. We’ll go from four to eight or something. So it would seem that if this is true, that there is some essence to us that continues to evolve along a vast spectrum, that it’ll be good to have multiple opportunities to progress, get to 60.

Rami: For that, yeah, whatever that essence is, right? I would get that. I’m not going to disagree with that on what grounds. But I don’t know if it’s true that you can’t wake up in a single lifetime. I mean, maybe you could say people who do, or you could argue people who do have had multiple lifetimes to get ready for this.

Rick: That too, yeah.

Rami: So there’s that. Yoganada said in his autobiography that, I don’t know if this is true or not, but he said that reincarnation was edited out of the Christian doctrine at the Council of Nicaea because it was felt by whoever that it gave people too much sort of, it would make them lazy, like, “Oh, I’ll do whatever I want, and I’ll keep working on it next time around.” They wanted them to focus in on being a good person right now. Well, by good person, they wanted them to focus in on following the rules and being controlled by the powers of the Council. So yeah, right. I mean, Judaism too has a reincarnation tradition. It’s not mainstream, but it also has that. All right. Well, we pretty much exhausted this topic. But whatever it is, I find it interesting. I mean, the idea of understanding–

Rami: I apologize for all the noises coming out of my neighborhood.

Rick: What’s that, the ice cream truck?

Rami: That’s an ice cream truck coming by, yeah.

Rick: Wow, I used to drive one of those. Yeah, he comes by every day, never stops. No one ever buys ice cream. I think he must be dealing drugs. I don’t know how he makes a living.

Rick: Yeah, it must be getting warm down there to have an ice cream truck.

Rami: We’re going to have some snow in the next day or two.

Rick: But in any case, what was I just about to say? I was saying something. Remember? Yeah.

Rami: It was another lifetime.

Rick: Yeah. I don’t know what it was. Anyway, maybe it’ll come back if it’s important. Oh, I know what it was. Just that with all kinds of subjects like this, I mean, it’s fun to talk about them and all, and I don’t think it’s just sort of party conversation or sort of idle gossip, because I think that understanding how the universe works is an important component, or should be, of spiritual development. And it’s certainly an emphasis in probably in your tradition, certainly in Vedanta, you know, Jnana Yoga, just sort of really sorting things out and getting a clear understanding of things. And I’m sure that there have been many Christians who have focused on understanding. Of course, these traditions have different understandings, but whatever, however they go about it, it seems to me that we have an intellect, we have a heart, we have a mind, we have these different components, and cultivating each of these faculties to do what it’s designed to do, as fully as it can be done, seems to me part of the holistic development that I would consider to be spiritual evolution.

Rami: Yeah, I absolutely agree. I think that at minimum, you know, just in the embodied existence that I have, I mean, there’s five dimensions that I’m aware of, you know, body, heart, mind, soul and spirit, and there may be subtle gradations within all of those. And I think that we need to develop practices on each of those dimensions. You know, it’s not enough to just sit on a cushion. There’s got to be a fit, you know, in the retreats that I run, when we used to do retreats pre-COVID, every morning we started with Qigong, and we did Metta, loving-kindness meditation every day, and we did mindfulness practice and self-inquiry and study. We tried to work on all five dimensions over the course of every day of the retreat. But I think that some people are more inclined, well, let me switch metaphors to the four yogas, you know, karma, bhakti, jhana and raja. So some people are more inclined to devotional practice, so they’re bhakti people. And some are more inclined, like I am, to jhana, the more in the intellect. But I remember Ram Dass said once that start where you are, but eventually, if you stick with it over a lifetime, they won’t all be equal necessarily, but all four of them, all four categories of practice, you know, will be manifested. You’ll manifest them in your life. When I first heard that, I was much, much younger. I thought, “Nah, I’m never going to be a bhakti person, or I’m never going to be a karma yogi person.” But he was right. If I listed them, karma yoga would probably be on the bottom, because I’m too lazy to do anything for other people. But I would have thought bhakti would have been something I could never do. But now, though it challenges my normal worldview, my bhakti practices of devotion to the Divine Mother are central to my daily practice, and I never would have imagined that.

Rick: Yeah. All the great non-dual masters, from Shankara, Shankara said, “The intellect imagines duality for the sake of devotion.” Ramana was very devotional, devoted to Arunachala. And Sargadatta, after the main group would leave, he’d break out the cymbals and they’d have bhajans practiced. And Papaji was very devoted to Krishna. So all these guys had the devotional component, and they would not have said, “Oh, it’s all just one, and so devotion is a delusional concession,” or anything like that. They all considered them important.

Rami: Yeah. When I started to move in that direction, I was adamantly opposed to what I was experiencing, because I was, “No, it’s just the non-duality. You can’t have this thing. This makes no sense.” I went to a number of teachers, so I won’t go into it, but tried to get rid of the experience that I was having. And I was finally sitting with Andrew Harvey once. We had been teaching together in the Phoenix area. We were at the Phoenix airport. And I said to him, “I’m having all these experiences of the divine feminine. I’m seeing images and hearing voices and all this.” And I said, “This violates my non-dual theology. I don’t have room for this.” And I won’t go into all the things he said, but in his delightfully loving, mocking way, he basically said, “If you think there’s non-duality and duality, you don’t understand non-duality. That if it’s all the one reality, then it can manifest as Kali and Mary and Chakma, Sophia, all these different characters I was experiencing, or Krishna or whoever happens to be.” So he helped me get over my intellectual resistance to the experiences I was having. Like I was saying earlier, the heart is a faculty, and if you’re going to be undergoing a holistic development, it’s bound to develop and you’re going to start having experiences in that way. So hey, you just kind of gave a little hint there to something that you haven’t discussed, which is, would you be willing to talk more about the experiences you’ve had? Like you started experiencing these Divine Mother things, for instance. How did that manifest, and what were your experiences?

Rami: Yeah, well, there were a lot, and it’ll get boring, but I’ll give you some examples. So I first started having this kind of visual, because I’m more of an auditory person, but I started having these visualizations, not on purpose. But I was sitting in my home, and I lived in Miami, Florida. I was reading the Miami Herald newspaper, and they had this gorgeous, I guess, icon of the Virgin Mary. It was just this watercolor. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it, and it really took up above the fold, as we used to say when you got a real paper newspaper. And I flipped the paper over to see what gallery this was, or what church this was in, because I wanted to go see it. And it turns out it was an oil slick on the side of a bank building in, I think it’s Clearwater, Florida, and thousands of people were making pilgrimage to it. She’s called Our Lady of Clearwater. And I don’t like crowds. I wasn’t going to go see it after reading that. But it was clear that this was not an oil slick, that this was an appearance of the Divine Mother as Mary. And then I started seeing her everywhere. And again, I wasn’t comfortable with it, but I couldn’t make it stop. And then I started having auditory experiences. And in Judaism, when the ancient rabbis would experience, would hear the revelation, would hear the voice of God, they called it a batkol, B-A-T-K-O-L. And it literally means bat is daughter and kol is voice. They heard the daughter’s voice, even though they thought it was the revelation of God, and God for them was so steeped in masculine imagery. When they heard God, they heard not Charlton Heston, or George Burns, they heard a woman’s voice. And I started having the same thing, though I identified it as Kali or Mary, or in the Hebrew Bible tradition, Klochma, Lady Wisdom, who appears in the eighth chapter. She’s mentioned a lot, but she speaks for herself in chapter eight of Proverbs, starting in verse 22. Anyway, I started having these auditory things, and she would say stuff to me. Some of it was personal about, “You’re so stupid, can’t you do this right for once?” And that may have been my mother on speakerphone. I could have mixed it up from my mother to the mother. But one of the most moving ones, and I’ll share this, I was leading this interfaith group pilgrimage in Israel-Palestine, and we were in Nazareth. And I’d never been there. I’d lived in Israel for a year at one time, year and a half another time. I’d been visiting many times, never, ever went to Nazareth for some reason. But Nazareth is called Mary’s Town, because that’s where she’s from, Jesus of Nazareth. And I’m sitting by what’s called Miriam’s Well, or Mary’s Well. And it’s all stone, it’s closed off now, but that was the town well. And there’s a beautiful, but very old and very faded, icon of Mary, attached to the stone. And I had this practice by then, this is just a few years ago, I had this practice that whenever I was at a Catholic place where there were Mary statues, I would always do the devotional Hail Mary full of grace practice. So that’s where I was in Nazareth, and I was just doing it like I always do. Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among all women, blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus, Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and into the moment or unto the moments of our death. So I was doing that because that’s something I just do. And then I heard this voice, this bat kol in my head, but at least in my way, I understand it wasn’t my voice. And she said, stop doing that. She said, that’s not your mantra. She didn’t say mantra, but that’s not your mantra. She said, recite this. And what I received was, so it’s Chochma is the Hebrew for lady wisdom. So it’s Hail Chochma full of grace, the divine is you, blessed are you and all women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, all being, Holy Mother, fount of wisdom, guide us seekers now and into the moments of our death. And that’s become a daily practice for me since then. So it’s been years, but not that many years. So those kinds of things happened to me, and it took me a long time to make peace with them. But with the help of Andrew Harvey, Sister Jose Habde, I don’t know if you know who she is. She’s deceased now, but Franciscan nun and a Native American medicine woman. I had a lot of teachers around this who helped me become comfortable with my experience. And now this devotional, using mala beads and reciting the Hail Chochma thing, is a major part of my spiritual practice. So I’m hoping it’s not ego projection, but I’m always willing to say, you’re kidding yourself. That’s not how I experience it. So I’m not making any claims other than I’m taking my experience seriously.

Rick: Yeah, that’s great. And I think that seems like a healthy approach to it. So do you think that when you had that experience, and it sounds like you’ve had a lot of different experiences, you said, I hope it’s not an ego projection, do you think that there’s actually some kind of celestial being that is communing with you, that is imparting some wisdom to you, or communicating, you know, like that?

Rami: Well, you know, I don’t. I don’t. I think she is simply my access point. You know, she’s the archetype that, for whatever reason, speaks to me if I want to experience the divine as, I don’t know, I don’t want to say other, but other, right? I mean, you said it really well before, but I can’t quote you, about these different, I mean, Ishwara kind of things, these personal deities that people have. So I see her as my archetype or my icon for listening more deeply or experiencing more deeply the greater reality of which we’re all a part. But I don’t think there’s separate beings out there floating around. Would you regard humans as separate beings floating around? I mean, if you make a concession to duality or to that vyavaharaka satyam, transactional truth, aren’t there billions of separate beings in the world, even though ultimately they’re all…

Rami: Yeah, from that transactional perspective, yeah. But even then, I know, I think I know, at a higher level, that you and I, it’s just God talking to God, you know, in that sense.

Rick: Yeah, both are true. Here’s one way of breaking it down. We could say on one level nothing ever happened, okay? And on another level we could say stuff is happening, but it’s all divine and perfect just as it is. On another level we could say stuff is happening and there are problems to deal with. There’s starving people over here and a disease over there and all that kind of stuff. And I don’t think we need to sort of lock into one level to the exclusion of the others. I think we can sort of expand our scope to incorporate all three simultaneously. And so you can say paradoxical things in the same breath and be comfortable with both sides of the paradox.

Rami: Yeah, I’m comfortable with that.

Rick: Okay, so paradoxically I would say that, yeah, of course there are celestial beings and angels and all that kind of stuff. They have their realm of experience or existence, we have ours, and there actually is some overlap, so that we can commune with them or they with us. And that doesn’t violate the ultimate essential oneness of things.

Rami: Yeah, that’s the key, that people realize it doesn’t violate the essential non-duality.

Rick: Yeah. And the duality bit is kind of necessary for living life, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to put a spoon in your mouth.

Rami: Yeah, right, absolutely.

Rick: In fact, there’s a saying in Vedanta, “faint remains of ignorance.” They concede that it’s ignorance, but they say you have to have it in order to actually live or function.

Rami: Yeah, right, right, right. And it’s only ignorance from the absolute perspective, the relative perspective it makes total sense.

Rick: Yeah, exactly. Okay, good. So anything more that you want to say over the course of your journey that have been significant, interesting milestones? I just feel like that thing you just said about having some of these connections with Mother Mary or whoever that was is fascinating. Have there been other things like that along the way? Because you do seem to have a sort of mystical dimension where you, you know…

Rami: Yeah, I’ll tell you something that just happened a couple of years ago. I was sitting with my teacher, this Indian fellow from the Ramana Maharshi tradition, and he’s in his late 80s. We were just sitting and chatting. I mean, he doesn’t teach, he doesn’t do workshops, he doesn’t do anything. He just lives in a little townhouse, and if you know about him, you can call him up, and if he’s up to it, you can just come and hang with him. So I was in town and I asked to come and see him. So we’re just sitting in his living room, and we’re just chatting, and I’ve known him a long time. And he says to me, “What’s your spiritual practice?” I said, “What do you mean? You know what my spiritual practice is. I do self-inquiry and I ask the question, ‘Who am I?'” And he says, “Are you?” And I just…

Rick: “Are you what?”

Rami: No, that’s all he said was, “Are you?” And then I wasn’t, but I wasn’t not. It was the weirdest thing. Rami was gone, but aware… I’ve had experiences where you drop body-mind and there’s nothing, and then you come back. But this was not that. This was, everything was still there, and yet it wasn’t.

Rick: But it wasn’t.

Rami: There was awareness, but there was no aware-er or something. I don’t know how to put it, but there was no language. I couldn’t speak. It wasn’t me. I was just aware of what was happening. And it went on for a while. Now, what a while means, I don’t know, because I had no sense of time. And then when it ended, I said, “What happened?” And he said, “I’m tired. I need to go now.” So I don’t know what he… We never came back to it. I never talked to him again about it. But that was an experience very different than what I have with the Divine Mother. Because with the Divine Mother, Rami is there having an experience or listening or seeing or somehow interacting with this other dimension or this avatar from another dimension. Whereas in this, it was completely different. And there was just an incredible stillness. I mean, I can’t say I was aware of everything, because there was no “I” there. There was just… There’s no language for it. I have no idea. But to me, that seems like, as an afterthought, that seems like the flip side of what I was experiencing when I’m having these dialogues with the Divine Mother. So, yeah. I mean, you ask for another thing, so that’s just another thing. Ultimately, though, it’s back to sitting cross-legged every morning. “Oh, that was cool. I’ve got to go back to the cushions.”

Rick: Yeah, you can’t get hung up on any of these things. And I think it’s completely legitimate and probably normal to shift into different modes of functioning. I bet you even the great sages of antiquity did that. There would be a time when… It sort of depends on the circumstances and what you’re engaged in. I mean, sometimes there needs to be a more manifest engagement, or maybe a more devotional engagement, or sometimes no engagement, you’re totally withdrawn. But I think over time, these things tend to integrate more and more. So you can be driving down the street or jogging or something, and yet that sort of silent, “nothing is happening, nobody is there” dimension is lively. In the midst of, “I’m breathing heavily because I’m jogging,” that all kind of integrates after a while.

Rami: Yeah, jogging, I don’t have a problem with that happening while you’re jogging. While you’re driving, you should pull over. No, that’s a little… And it happens to people, even without a specific practice.

Rick: It does.

Rami: Because I think we all have the entire A to the A keyboard, and sometimes maybe you just fall in through grace to playing parts that you never even knew existed.

Rick: Yeah, I have a friend who’s been going through a stage recently where when she drives, she has to avoid looking at the sky, because if she looks at anything vast, she slips into so much vastness that she’s not even aware that she’s driving anymore. And she has to be like, “Whoa, wait, wait, pull over!” So it’s a matter of integrating, because eventually that won’t happen.

Rami: Yeah.

Rick: Okay. So you also say in your notes that you’re a recovering food addict. You seem to be doing pretty well with your recovery, because you don’t look overweight to me. But you’re a compulsive overeater, and you’ve been clean for 13 years.

Rami: Yeah, well, you’re not always… When you have a food addiction, sometimes it can be bulimic. You don’t have to be obese. And even when you’re eating is okay and your weight is okay, it’s the mentality around food that’s just… I still have the… The triggers are still there. One of the things I learned during the last year of lockdown was… Now you can hear my dog. One of the things I learned during the last year of lockdown was that the attraction I had to certain restaurants that I would go to, and you couldn’t go. And I realized, wait, I was doing this addictively. I didn’t even know I had an addiction. And I would say, “Oh, restaurants are fine because they limit your portions, and so it’s okay.” But I lost 20 pounds in the last year because I couldn’t go to these places that I was going. And I wasn’t overeating at those places, but I was just eating poorly at those places, if that makes sense. I never say I’m a recovering food addict. I’m working at it day by day, but I would never say I’m really clean because the triggers are there. I mean, I know there is a bag of Fritos on the other side of this door that my wife is enjoying, that is calling me with the same intensity as the Divine Mother. It’s another kind of bot kol.

Rick: It’s interesting, being a food addict is different than being an alcoholic because you can get rid of all the alcohol in your house and not go to bars or just go anywhere near alcohol, but you have to have food. You can’t get rid of all the food. Right, right.

Rami: Sometimes in the 12-step world, there’s, “Oh, you’re a food addict. That’s not as bad. I’m a drug addict. That’s the real addiction.” They play who’s the bigger addict, which is just sort of egoic silliness. I have a lot of friends who are recovering alcoholics, and I wouldn’t change my addiction for theirs, even though you say, “Well, you just don’t go. You don’t buy it. You don’t go there.” It’s all madness to me. I don’t have a hierarchy of addictions.

Rick: Do you think people get addicted to things like food or anything else because there’s not enough internal fulfillment? And so outer cravings kind of get the upper hand?

Rami: Well, I think that could be part of it. I think with food, because that’s the only one I really know, I’ve never, literally, have never had a drink. Even when you’re supposed to have wine with various holidays, I always used grape juice. So I’ve never had a drink, and I’ve never had experience. I’ve smoked marijuana twice in high school. It just made me hungry.

Rick: It does that.

Rami: Yeah. So that was my only drug experience. So just from my food experience, I know that there’s a psychological dimension to it. That’s absolutely true. I would say it’s when I’m happy, I want to eat. When I’m sad, I want to eat. So there’s always that element to it. I’m just speaking from food now. There’s also the industrial food, the business of food, where food is deliberately made with too much salt, sugar, and fat in order to hook you. People are just evolutionarily designed to consume salt, sugar, and fat. And knowing that, it’s like when they would put tobacco in cigarettes, nicotine in cigarettes, because they know it’s going to hook you. And they knew it was addictive. The same thing with the food industry. So my thing, I think, is more on the salt part. But it doesn’t matter. I love all salt, sugar, and fat things. So it’s part me, part psychological, part physiological, and part cultural or maybe economic, because the industry is designed to hook me on. They even tell you with Frito-Lay potato chips, you can’t eat just one.

Rick: That’s true.

Rami: Well, that’s their business model, and that’s my addiction problem. So I don’t eat any.

Rick: Remember that Alka-Seltzer commercial? I can’t believe I ate the whole thing. All right, enough about that topic. What’s this holy rascals business about here?

Rami: Yeah, holy rascals. Those are people who have too much respect for religion to leave it in the hands of marketing professionals. Those are people who see the craziness in religion but don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I would say people like Ramana, people like Nisargadatta Maharaj, Ramakrishna. Jesus would be a holy rascal. Jesus was reforming Judaism, not creating Christianity. But you get someone, even let’s say someone like either Rabbi Saul of Tarsus or St. Paul, however you want to look at him. He had some incredibly radical things to say that the church is buried because it’s not conducive to maintaining the holy rascals. When he says there’s no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female in Christ Jesus, there goes the three major sociological divisions of his time. And he said, no, when you’re part of the church, first of all, the church maintains those divisions up to this day. But I don’t think he’s talking about the church. He’s talking about Christ consciousness. And when you enter into that kind of I am consciousness or whatever you want to call it, all those divisions fall away. I mean, that’s holy rascality, teaching that stuff within the context of a tradition. So what I think we need is more holy rascals, people who will, even from within their tradition. I’m not saying you have to leave your tradition, but from within the tradition to find the great mystics and teach that material. I mean, when I go to, again, things changed in the last year of COVID, but when I used to be invited to lots of different churches, I would talk about, let’s say, the Gospel of Thomas, which now people at least have some sense that there is such a thing. But there was a time when people had no idea what that was.

Rick: And that’s from, is that from the Dead Sea Scrolls?

Rami: No, Gnostic Gospels. It’s technically not Gnostic, I guess, but it’s one of the Nag Hammadi texts.

Rick: Nag Hammadi, right.

Rami: In the desert. And, you know, Jesus opens it up. The first, it’s 114 sayings of Jesus. And the first one is anyone who figures out what the hell I’m saying won’t taste death. And in other words, here come 113, 113 koan that Jesus is teaching. That are integrated into the New Testament. The Gospel of Thomas has no narrative. There’s no story. It’s because Jesus says X, Jesus says Y. But they’re koan-like statements, and you’ve got to figure them out. When you can make the two one and the male like the female and the female like the male and all those kinds of things. You know, when you can achieve that kind of yin-yang integration, then you experience the koan-like statements. And then you experience the kingdom of heaven. Well, you can’t build a church on that. You can build a jhana koan practice on something like that. So there are these wild characters throughout human history and now in different traditions and outside traditions. But these incredibly brilliant, wise, open-hearted people who are bringing out a different way of understanding these kinds of things. These conventional teachings that all of us have grown up with. That’s who I call the holy rascal.

Rick: Yeah, it seems to me that most great mystics like Jesus and others, in their time, very few people understood them. But they certainly made an impact, so they really got the ball rolling. And then once the ball was rolling, certain administrative mindset type people moved in to kind of organize it. You know that old joke about God and the devil walking along the road, and God picks something up and puts it in his pocket, and the devil says, “What was that?” And God says, “Oh, that’s just the truth.” And the devil says, “Oh, give it to me, I’ll organize it for you.” So there do seem to be these different sort of personality types, you know. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi used to call them the second-rate minds, the administrators, even though he needed them.

Rami: Yeah, there’s a place for them, but it shouldn’t be at the top of the spiritual food chain. Yeah. And then some of them are like people like, I love Alan Watts. You know, when I was an undergraduate, my Buddhism professor, who was really my mentor, he took me aside once and he said, “What do you want to do with all of this? What’s your goal, your career goal?” And I said to him, “I want to be the Jewish Alan Watts.” And he said, “Alan Watts? No, that’s crap.” And I said, “That’s what I want to be, the Jewish Alan Watts.” So Alan Watts was a holy rascal, I think, but very brilliant and a serious practitioner.

Rick: Was he a practitioner? I heard that he would just talk the talk really well, but didn’t do a lot of deep practice.

Rami: No, I think he practiced. I mean, maybe not. Well, I mean, I don’t know enough about him to say he had a specific tradition. I don’t remember him writing about that. But I think he did practice. I think he was very engaged in Chinese calligraphy as a practice. And he worked with some powerful, Gary Snyder, other powerful practitioners. So I think he had a practice, but it may not have been a brand name practice.

Rick: One more point I want to make about the whole thing with the administrators and all is that they take over, but then they find they feel threatened by the mystics. Because the mystics are always going to be rocking the boat and getting to the inner meaning of things, and so they end up killing them or banishing them or something like that. So you very quickly end up with the kind of outer shell of religion, but no remnants really of what the founder of it was teaching or saying.

Rami: There’s a tradition in Judaism called the Lamed Vovnik, means 36. That says, this comes from a guy named Rabbi Abaye 1600 years ago. He taught that there are always 36 people alive on the planet who are awake to the Divine Feminine. He used the word Shekhinah, the Divine Feminine, and then doing this work of being a blessing. And in his time, he meant 36, not 35, not 37. It’s changed over the centuries. But there are always these 36 people, and he called them Tadikim Nistarim, hidden saints. And he said, they have to be hidden because if they’re outed, they get into big trouble. And Martin Buber had this theory that Jesus was one of the 36 and that he was outed. Because he always says to people when he does a miracle, don’t tell anyone. His mother says, fix the wine problem. He says, Ma, it’s not my time. Let’s just keep this below the radar because what happens is what happened. Like you said, they kill people like that. Mansur Al-Hallaj, the guy who said, “Ana I-Haqq’, I am truth, the Sufi, they killed him.

Rick: Yeah, I think they dismembered him or something.

Rami: Yeah, so, you know, the work has to be done below the surface.

Rick: But you know, we started out our conversation talking about how the times are such that there’s going to be a big collapse, and you suggested it might happen rather quickly. And we talked about how perhaps an upsurge in spirituality, which does seem to be happening in the world, will be the saving grace and will enable things to kind of turn around eventually and we’ll end up in a better world. But maybe we’re going to evolve into a time where dead religions that have lost their inner juice don’t dominate the planet and that mystics become more and more dominant, the majority And that we could have a real sort of experience-based spirituality become predominant in the world. Do you think there’s any chance of that?

Rami: I have no idea, but I certainly would love to see that happen. You know, you see that religions are the brand name religions. Their members are, they’re leaking members.

Rick: Yeah.

Rami: I’ve forgotten now the statistics, but it’s been very rapid in many Christian churches, certainly in synagogues, because the outer form has no juice, like you said, and people are looking for something more than that. So, yeah, I think, but they don’t go quietly into the night, right? They go kicking and screaming and fighting. So, the same thing maybe with political parties. The same thing with, you know, lots of things that people do. We’re going to turn to the darkest, most violent way of having this collapse happen. And I think that’s going to be a big part of the way that we’re going to evolve. But, yeah, I think that the mystics are the threat to the establishment and the hope of the rest of us.

Rick: Yeah. There’s one thing that if I don’t ask you about it, it’s going to bug me later, because I thought, “Well, that’s very interesting.” But then we moved on to other things, and that was the thing you were saying about how the greater the saint, the greater the shadow. And explain that a little bit more. I mean, Jesus was a great saint, for instance. So, what was his great shadow, or Ramana, or any of these others? I mean, go ahead.

Rami: Yeah, I don’t, I mean, I can’t tell you. I can talk about Jesus a little bit. I mean, you know, Jesus curses the tree for not bearing fruit off season.

Rick: Oh, yeah.

Rami: You know, Jesus says to the Samaritan woman who’s asking for help in the desert, he calls her, you know, he’s not going to, what, he basically calls her a dog, and then she says, “But even dogs get scraps off the person’s table.” I mean, he had some of the built-in cultural biases of the Jews of his time. So, you could say that was his shadow.

Rick: But perhaps no worse than the typical Jew of his time. So, I mean, it’s not like, you know, Mother Teresa also has her Hitler side or something like that. It seems that people become predominantly good as they rise to Satan.

Rami: Well, I think, yeah, I mean, I just, I don’t want to have a whole philosophical discussion on it, because I don’t have it thought out that way. But what I was getting at is that consciousness is not, you know, it has its yin side and its yang side, and there’s a balance and a flow, and that the greater, you know, what I said, the greater the saint, the greater the capacity for sinning, it’s because their consciousness is so great, and so the pull of the negative, I think, is also very strong on these people. But most of them, or I don’t know about most, let me not say that, but people that I like, like Ramana, they’ve managed to channel that energy into something positive. But they still have a body, they still have a psyche, they still have, you know, these desires that they can work with, maybe sublimate, though I’m not sure that’s the way to go, but to at least channel them in the right direction of being a blessing. But it’s not like they don’t have a dark side. I don’t think that’s possible. I think that everyone has a shadow, and that a lot of the spiritual work has to be to embrace your shadow. I’ll give you just an abstract idea here, but in the book of Leviticus, in chapter 19, verse 18, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” In the Hebrew, it’s “ve’ahavta le’re’echa kamocha.” “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The Hebrew Bible is in the scroll version, not the printed ones you pick up in a store, but the original scroll texts, they have no vowels. And so you breathe vowels into the consonants. And in the Jewish tradition, you can breathe, you have the standard vowels, and then you can breathe other things if it brings out additional meanings. So there’s a rabbi in the 19th century, 1800s, Rev. Nachman of Braslov, who said you can read “ve’ahavta le’re’echa kamocha,” “love your neighbor as yourself,” but you could also read it “ve’ahavta le’ra’echa kamocha,” which means “love your evil as yourself.” And he said, “Unless you can embrace your own shadow side,” he didn’t use “shadow,” he said “evil.” Jung comes much later. But unless you can embrace your own dark side, you’re just going to project that onto other people. So my thought is that the more light you experience, the more aware you are of the darkness that you have as well, and that you can bring that darker energy in service to the light, but you don’t really wipe out the dark energy. And when you think you’re free from the dark is when you’re probably the most dangerous.

Rick: Yeah, you would be if you thought you were free and clear. But perhaps we kind of purify our darkness. I mean, it’s not like Ramana was tempted to do horrible things all day long and had to fight with it. He just sat there and radiated and marinated in bliss.

Rami: Yeah, I’m not saying that it’s a fight. You just naturally are channeling that energy. And maybe there are exceptions, I have no idea. I think it’s just dangerous to imagine, well, like we were saying before about the Buddhist teacher, that he had no dark side, therefore he wasn’t trying to kill me with a butcher knife. Yeah, when he was dying of his alcoholic excesses and was all sorts of delirious, people were claiming that he was having visions, that they were some kind of spiritual thing. But he was really just, his brain was fried.

Rami: Right, well, you’re trying to salvage your story.

Rick: Yeah, yeah. But anyway, that’s an interesting point, and we’ll wrap it up in a minute. It’s maybe worthy of another conversation sometime, or certainly something we can all think about, of how spiritual development is said to be a process of increasing the light, but perhaps that illuminates dusty corners and hidden things that had been hidden from us. And there’s that saying of, what is it, what’s that saying? I forget. Blind spots, of course. Everybody has their blind spots. And I kind of have always assumed that the spiritual process is a matter of not only illumining them and having to sort of stare at them, like this ugly mess in the corner of the room all the time, but being able to clean up the mess because we now see it, and then thereafter being free of the mess because it’s been cleaned up. And maybe there will always be new messes to clean up.

Rami: That’s what I’m saying. So what you’re calling cleaning up, I’m talking about channeling that energy in the other direction. Purifying it.

Rick: Yeah. Yeah. All right, good. Well, are there any mysteries of life that we haven’t resolved today?

Rami: No. Got them all nailed?

Rick: Is there anything you’d like to say in conclusion?

Rami: No, I think we covered it. And anything I would say probably gets opened in another conversation. Yeah, get me going again. Right.

Rick: Great. Well, I’ve really enjoyed this. I don’t think I’m going to stick to this policy of not knowing anything about the person because I really do like, I enjoy spending my time walking in the woods and getting to know the person while listening to their talks or whatever. But it worked with you.

Rami: Well, I’m glad it worked.

Rick: Yeah. Good.

Rami: Thank you for having me on, Rick. This was a lot of fun. Yeah, it really was. And so thanks to those who have been listening or watching. And I forget who my guest is next week. I think it’s a lady named Cherie Ami who had a near-death experience. And the week after that is Father Richard Rohr. So that’ll be great. Cynthia Bourgeault said, “How did you get him? Are you Oprah or something?” I said, “No, I was just really persistent.”

Rami: Have you had Cynthia on the show?

Rick: Yeah, a couple times, including recently.

Rami: I love Cynthia.

Rick: Yeah, she’s great. So thanks to those who have been listening or watching. Visit the website where I’ll have links to various things, such as some of Rami’s books and to his website. He has a couple of links here. And while you’re there, if you want to sign up for the podcast or anything else, just explore the menus and you’ll see what’s there. And we’ll see you next time. Thanks, Rami.

Rami: Thank you, Rick.

Rick: Have a good whatever. Stay away from the Fritos.

Rami: Yeah, good advice. Thank you. Now I’m going to go eat them.

Rick: No, no, don’t do it.

Rami: All righty, I’ll talk to you later.

Rick: All right, thanks.

Rami: Thanks.

Rick: Bye. Bye. Bye.

Rami: Bye. Bye.