- The interviewer introduces Rick Archer: Rick is the host of Buddha at the Gas Pump, a YouTube channel and podcast that features interviews with hundreds of spiritual teachers and leaders from various traditions and backgrounds.
- Rick’s spiritual history: Rick recounts how he became interested in spirituality after taking LSD and reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead in 1967. He then learned transcendental meditation and had a profound experience of peace and bliss. He became a teacher of TM and taught many people around the world.
- The benefits of meditation: He says that meditation helps to tap into the vast potential of human consciousness, intelligence, creativity, and energy. He also says that meditation has to be integrated with daily life and that it enhances one’s skills and abilities in various fields.
- Rick’s involvement with other spiritual groups: He mentions that he occasionally visits Amma, the Hugging Saint, and that he is impressed by her love, energy, and humanitarian work. He also says that he is not affiliated with any particular organization and that he appreciates the diversity of spiritual paths and practices.
- Psychic phenomena – They agree that psychic phenomena such as precognition, clairvoyance, and near-death experiences are interesting and reveal the subtler aspects of creation, but they also caution against becoming obsessed or distracted by them. They emphasize the importance of being open to the possibility of such phenomena without losing sight of the ultimate goal of awakening.
- Divine intelligence and providence – They both share a sense of awe and reverence for the intelligence that orchestrates the creation and guides their lives. They talk about how trusting and aligning with this intelligence brings blessings and opportunities that they could not have imagined. They also discuss how this intelligence responds to the challenges and suffering that humanity faces and how it is facilitating a global shift in consciousness.
- Spiritual practice and knowledge – They both stress the importance of balancing experience and knowledge on the spiritual path. They advocate for a committed and consistent practice that leads to deeper and clearer experience, as well as a broad and nuanced knowledge that inspires and clarifies the understanding. They also suggest some resources and tips for finding suitable books and teachers that resonate with one’s interest and inclination.
Angelo: So, I want to welcome to the channel today a guest that I’ve been very interested to interview. This gentleman has probably interviewed and had conversations with more spiritual teachers and spiritual leaders, certainly than anyone I know of, and I would venture to say quite possibly more than anyone alive today. I don’t know for sure, but he’s interviewed hundreds and hundreds of spiritual teachers and leaders and healers and guides and so forth over the years. He has a YouTube channel and a podcast called Buddha at the Gas Pump, if you’re interested, if you haven’t heard of him. Probably 90% of people watching this have, but if you haven’t, check out his material. He has incredible interviews with many, many, many spiritual teachers. His name is Rick Archer, and I’d like to say hi and welcome to the channel.
Rick: Hey, thanks. I appreciate it. And I just give a shout out to people like Ian McNay and Jeffrey Mishlove, and there’s others who have been doing spiritual-type interviews for a long, long time, and I appreciate them too.
Angelo: Absolutely, yeah.
Rick: Ian McNay is the Conscious TV guy.
Angelo: Yeah, yeah, and they do have really good material as well, yeah. That’s true.
Rick: They do.
Angelo: Yeah. So, I guess I would just, when I offered the interview, my thought would be I’d be curious to hear about some of your spiritual history, what made you become interested in spirituality on a personal level, and then leading into how you started doing the interviews and so forth. And then maybe we’ll talk about how some of the, what you’ve learned interacting with all these teachers and some patterns you’ve noticed, and maybe the overall evolution of spirituality and so forth. So I guess first of all, I’m just kind of curious, how did you get interested in spirit, spirituality, religion, et cetera?
Rick: Well, I certainly wasn’t interested in religion when I was a kid. My parents dragged me to church on Sunday because they thought it would be good for my character or something, and it always ruined a perfectly good Sunday. I usually kicked and screamed and didn’t want to go. I had a few, as most people did, sort of thoughtful moments when I was young, staring at the stars or something like that and wondering what was out there. We lived in Connecticut, we’d go into New York City on my birthday and go to the Hayden Planetarium and I’d think bigger thoughts. But I didn’t have really an inkling of what spirituality might be, never gave it a thought. Then in 1967, which was the summer of love, everybody’s starting to take drugs, I got interested in that, and in preparation for doing LSD the first time, some friends and I were reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead. I can remember specifically where I was. It was actually Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert’s rendition of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. I was driving the car, I had three friends in the car, and I was going down the post road in Westport, Connecticut. Ironically, I was right in front of the church my parents used to drag me to when I was a kid, when they were reading the book, someone in the back seat, and they mentioned the word enlightenment. Somehow a little light went off in my head. I thought, “Enlightenment, okay, that sounds like something important. That might be what you’re supposed to do in life.” So then we went on and took LSD and all. I was a mixed up, crazy, confused kid, but it dawned upon me, it made it obvious to me that there is a whole lot more to life than ordinarily meets the eye. I had just assumed that everybody pretty much saw the world the way I saw it, and it’s all the same thing. I remember going into a donut shop in the morning, we were up all night, tripping, went in there and looking at the ladies selling donuts and thinking, “My God, they’re seeing this particular situation so differently than I am right now.” My thoughts weren’t as coherent as they are right now, but it just hit me that what’s important is to change the way you see the world rather than the world itself, although that has its value. But as Gandhi or someone said, “It’s easier to wear shoes than to pave the earth with leather.” So I couldn’t forget the idea of higher states of consciousness, enlightenment, and the whole deal. But then for the ensuing year, I continued to take drugs and dropped out of high school and hitchhiked to California and did all kinds of crazy things. By the end of that year, I was pretty messed up. I’d gotten arrested a couple of times, spent a few nights in jail. One night I was taking some hallucinogen for the umpteenth time, and I was sitting there in my bedroom in the basement of my father’s home reading a Zen book to stabilize my mind or something. Zen flesh, Zen bones it was. And it dawned upon me, I thought, “Okay, now these guys are really serious and I’m just screwing around. And if I keep screwing around like this, I’m going to live a miserable life. I’m being a hypocrite. This is not enlightenment what I’m doing here.” And so I thought, “Okay, that’s it. I’m going to stop taking drugs. I’m going to learn to meditate.” At the time, transcendental meditation was available. I had heard about it. And I’ll see what happens. And I should add that I had a bit of a difficult childhood. My father was an alcoholic, PTSD from World War II. He was a professional artist, a sensitive man, but very messed up by the war. He verbally abused my mother throughout my childhood. She ended up trying to commit suicide three times and was in and out of psychiatric hospitals during most of my adolescence. So consequently, I was a bit traumatized myself. So in any case, I learned to meditate a few weeks later, a couple weeks later. And there’s a whole story about that in terms of walking across Westchester County in order to get home to get some money for my father so I could learn to meditate, a whole story. I won’t go into it.
Angelo: Was this around the time that the Beatles had gotten involved with TM and went and met Maharishni?
Rick: Yeah. Yeah, they had gone, I believe, in February of ’68 or something to Rishikesh. And so that’s how I heard about it. And then this was like July of ’68 that I finally went in to learn. And I wouldn’t have heard about it if not for the Beatles. So in any case, when I learned, it was like kaboom, right off the bat. I just sank into a deep transcendent state and felt such a soothing, blissful influence. And I remember walking down Fifth Avenue afterwards from the center there in New York. And it was a big thunderstorm and I was just getting drenched to the skin, but I didn’t care. People were huddling under awnings looking at me like I was crazy. But I just felt like a ton had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt such relief. So I kept meditating. And I don’t know, sometimes I say OCD can be your friend because I actually haven’t missed a twice-daily meditation in 54 years since the day I learned, under all kinds of circumstances.
Angelo: That’s amazing.
Rick: Yeah, it’s just like I made a resolve. And it’s funny because when I started, all my friends, knowing what a flake I was, said, “Oh yeah, this is your latest thing. You’ll be doing something else in two weeks.” But I just started experiencing such benefits that I stuck with it. And I went on to become a teacher and taught a lot of people and lectured and traveled all over the world and did all kinds of fun things in that capacity.
Angelo: I learned TM as well. I think we talked about this in the interview with me that when I learned TM from an old hippie guy who learned it, he knew Maharishi. I don’t know if he learned it from him or learned it from someone else. But I had a similar experience in that the first time I meditated, my brain was revved up. But I think within a week, I did it every day just like they said. And within a week, I dropped in just like that. I felt like it was the first time I felt peace in my life that I remembered.
Rick: Yeah. Do you remember the hippie guy’s name, by any chance?
Angelo: He went by this name Rack, but it was Robert Allen Cregel. And he’s a Boulderite. He grew up in the south side of Chicago, and he talked a lot about that.
Rick:I don’t remember. I became a teacher at Estes Park and gave one of my first lectures in Boulder, Denver. I went out during the course and gave some sample lectures for practice, then came back and told Maharishi how it went and everything. I remember I’d gone in, I forget whether it was Boulder, I think it might have been Denver. We were in some high school giving a lecture, and I was walking down the hall, and I looked in the window of a room and it had words like “moksha” and things like that on the blackboard. So I actually just poked my head in and said, “Hi, we’re meditation teachers. I noticed you had these things written on the blackboard.” And there’s a whole classroom full of kids. And they invited us in and I gave a whole talk to that class as well, and went back and reported it to Maharishi in the evening. But anyway, yeah, so I had a lot of fun with that. I’m no longer officially in the TM movement, but I have no problems with it. I kind of, in a way, became too independent in my thinking really to fit comfortably in the confines of any particular organization. But I credit that whole thing for having literally saved my life, because at the rate I was going, I was starting to use hard drugs actually before this, heroin a few times and stuff. I don’t think I would have lasted that long. So anyway, during all these decades of meditation, there have been times, several years if you add it all up, where I was on six-month retreats and things like that. And I just went really deep into it. So I’m very grateful.
Angelo: How did you find the retreats? How was it, your experience of that?
Rick: Sometimes very nice and deep and clear experiences. Sometimes you get a little loopy if you’re doing that much meditation, and you get sort of eccentric. Like one time I just got obsessed with fasting, because we were doing some experimentation with things like that, but I took it to extremes. I tend to be a little obsessive and to take things to extremes. So I got kind of out of balance, and it took me a long time to get back in balance. We had this thing where on these retreats you kind of gradually increase the amount of meditation until you’re meditating most of the day, and then a month or two before the course was to end, you start gradually decreasing. So you just come down gently and integrate as you get back into activity. And I remember one time I was doing this independent thing in a cabin in North Carolina with three friends because we weren’t going to be able to go to the regular course because we were going to be teaching a course up in Maine. And for some reason we had to leave this cabin kind of abruptly, and so we kind of crashed down in terms of going from ten hours of meditation a day to just the normal morning and evening. And it took me months to get stabilized. It was almost like there was an old Star Trek episode where Scotty was beaming Captain Kirk up or something, and the beamer was broken, and so he kind of got half-beamed, and he was sort of neither here nor there, and he couldn’t quite be in his body, but he wasn’t down where he had been. That’s kind of how I felt for a few months until I got stabilized after that abrupt thing.
Angelo: Yeah. Sustained meditation is no joke. I mean, I remember, let’s see, the first time I did a week-long Sashin and Zen, several things, but leaving the retreat was just a trip in so many ways. One of them was as I drove my car out of the parking lot, I got about a block before I was convinced I had a flat tire because everything was vibrating so much. And then I realized everything was really loud, and the cars were moving so fast, and everything was so bright. And I’m like, “Wow, have I been living my whole life and not actually sensing things this clearly, even though it’s obvious?” And I realized, “Wow, I got out of the car to see, does it have a flat tire, and it didn’t.” And I realized, “Does it always vibrate this much?” Everything was so intense and so bright, and so it really does change your perspective significantly.
Rick: Yeah. And so that’s a kind of an interesting point that we can get into more. But somebody asked Maharishi one time, “Couldn’t you just enlighten us? Do we have to do all these courses and all this stuff?” And he said, “If I could, you wouldn’t want it.” He said, “It would take 10 strong men to hold you down.” So in other words, what we’re talking about here is a huge shift in one’s perspective and orientation to life. And that shift, I think, has to take place somewhat gradually and incrementally with stabilization, integration at every step of the way. If we want to live it, which I presume we do as a human being, unless we want to just sort of be drooling in a cave or something, we need to integrate and stabilize it. So you can drive a car or fly a plane if that happens to be, or do brain surgery if that’s your profession or whatever. But in integrating it properly, I would say, then this development of inner potential makes you much better at most things. So it enhances your life, but it has to be developed responsibly.
Angelo: Absolutely. It reminds me of, there was another TM teacher in Boulder many, many years ago named Larry Cutt who used a similar analogy. He said, “When the mind calms, when there’s fewer thoughts and fewer distractions of the mind and so forth,” he said, “your mind becomes more like a precise instrument. It’s something like a bright diamond with a black background.” And that’s what I find, not that I think I’m smarter, more intelligent, or anything like that, what I find is that it’s kind of like the background noise is gone. It makes things so much simpler, and I think it is more precise. It requires less effort. There’s less distraction. There’s less struggle with yourself about what you should be doing and so forth.
Rick: Yeah, there’s a line in the Gita which goes, “Yoga is skill in action.” Of course, the Gita was a teaching where some guy had to fight a battle, and he was being given a teaching that would actually enable him to do that more successfully. But there have been all kinds of studies on this, too. It definitely makes the mind sharper and improves memory and learning ability, and all kinds of capabilities are enhanced. And you’ve probably heard the notion that we only use a small percentage of our full potential. We have a vast, untapped reservoir of energy, intelligence, creativity, and so on that most of us don’t even realize is there, much less developed. So meditation can be a means of tapping into that and unfolding it and utilizing it in daily life.
Angelo: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Now, did you end up involved in other groups, like any Buddhist groups, or have you kind of done it on your own most of the time?
Rick: Pretty much on my own. Around 1999, Irene and I went and saw Amma, the Hugging Saint, and we just really enjoyed the experience. So up until the pandemic started, pretty much, we were doing that once or twice a year, just for a few days. And that was nice. And if that were my only spiritual practice, going to see her once a year, that wouldn’t have sufficed. But it was a nice little engine on the train. But just my regular daily practice, a couple hours of meditation a day, I do some yoga asanas, but I’ve never really been deeply involved in any other group.
Angelo: Yeah. So maybe, I’m curious about Amma. I actually don’t know much about her. Could you describe a little bit about what it’s like to go see her or go on to a retreat with her?
Rick: Well, yeah, she’s pretty remarkable, actually. And you hear about it, “Oh, she hugs people.” It sounds sort of touchy-feely and new-agey or something, but she really is a remarkable being. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in the presence of somebody who radiates a lot of shakti, a lot of spiritual energy, but if you meet such a person, you feel like your whole consciousness shifts just by being in their proximity. And she kind of creates or catalyzes this shift in the atmosphere of the entire group, which becomes more and more profound over a period of several days. And you can feel it, even like, I remember the last time I went to her facility in Chicago one summer, and just driving onto the campus of it, it used to be a college that her organization bought, I could feel the influence. And I’m not a real sensitive person. I’m not the type that picks up on all that kind of stuff too much. But basically, you are there and there’s this whole thing and people are singing bhajans and it’s a nice atmosphere, and then at some point you go up for your darshan and you get in a queue and you come up and then you have this thing, it might only last 30 seconds or a minute or so, where she takes you in her arms and whispers something in your ear, just some little, “My darling, my darling, my darling,” something like that. And maybe looks at you, gives you a Hershey’s kiss, some little thing, and sends you away. And you just feel really zapped. I mean, I’ve seen big, strong, grown men just burst into tears from the experience. And then you sit there and you watch her do it for 12 hours straight, or all night long, without even getting off the couch to pee or anything. And each person, I mean, she’s greeting each person as they come up with the same enthusiasm and love and patience and everything else, and humor, whatever the person needs, as the first one. And she just doesn’t run out of steam. And she’s also very, she tunes into you and sometimes knows things about you that you haven’t told anybody, but she tunes in and then says something that is spot on in terms of what you need to hear. And I’m not imagining that, I can speak from experience. And she’s also very malleable in the sense that, I remember I was sitting there one time and some girl came up and said, “My husband beats me,” and almost had tears running down her cheeks. And then next person that came up, something funny happened and she was laughing uproariously. So she is immediately adaptable to each person’s circumstance.
Angelo: Man, that is so powerful.
Rick: And then on top of that, there’s this huge humanitarian thing going on in India, especially with providing pensions to widows so they don’t end up on the street, and building houses for tsunami victims. She just, under her auspices, the largest private hospital in Asia was just built in the suburbs of New Delhi. Huge place with all the latest modern stuff. And dozens, a big long list as long as your arm of things like that that are going on.
Angelo: So it’s impressive.
Rick: And this is a woman with a fourth grade education.
Angelo: I just, I want to reflect on two aspects of spirituality. You just pointed out that are so easily overlooked. You can almost say the masculine aspect of spirituality about insight and doctrine and these practices and things like that. It’s not just masculine, but the feminine aspect of enlightenment is so powerful and it’s such a powerful transmission. But often it’s something you have to be in the presence of. You feel it directly. And I felt it. I’ve been around people who transmit that. One interestingly is Lisa Carnes actually. She’s one way you see online and she has a certain style of teaching. When you’re around her physically, just in the room, you feel it. It’s different. It’s very powerful. Adyashanti for sure. Adyashanti is one of the others. And Gangaji. Those are the people I’ve met that you can feel their energetic influence on the entire environment. You just can’t. You can’t, you know, if you’re sensitive, you feel it. And the other aspect is, in my opinion, where the rubber meets the road in many ways is meta, compassionate action. Like what are you actually doing in the world? It’s one thing to be enlightened. It’s one thing to have the insights. It’s one thing to go beyond the illusion of separation, the illusion of self even. It’s another thing to turn the wheel of the dharma in a practical way in the world as a living being around the physical suffering of other living beings and to be willing to just do something there, you know, do something compassionate.
Rick: I agree. We can talk more about this. I don’t know if we want to go into that right now, but we can. But I think that’s a very important component and it’s sort of a proof of the pudding kind of a thing. I mean, I’ve heard people actually argue that you can be an enlightened schmuck, you know. And I don’t think, not by my definition of enlightenment. If I’m going to use that word, it would have to be for a holistic development in which all the faculties, including the heart and compassion and all those things, are fully developed. Otherwise, you’re lopsided.
Angelo: I agree with you.
Rick: As Ken Wilber, your neighbor in Boulder, speaks of lines of development, in his opinion you can become quite advanced along certain lines but really stunted in some of the other lines. I would not consider that enlightenment or even that big a deal. I’d rather see someone who’s compassionate and kind and generous and loving, who doesn’t claim any sort of awakening, than someone who claims to be awakened and is seducing his students and ripping them off financially.
Angelo: Absolutely. I agree with you 100%. The beauty of this whole deal is you can’t ignore the relative. And what’s interesting is somebody who maybe even has had some sort of awakening or has some true insight but is certainly not liberated, not what I would call enlightened, often they don’t notice their own fixations as much as the people around them or their students even. I won’t name names, but often it’s the students who call out the teacher at some point and say, “You need to keep working on something.” And the relative litmus test is simple. Just spend some time around that person. You’ll know. Are they kind? Are they generous? Are they self-oriented or other-oriented? Do they feel relaxed to you? Do they feel equanimous? It’s not that hard to figure out for anyone, really. If you spend some time around somebody, you should be able to pick that up.
Rick: There’s this thing, this organization that I helped to found three or four years ago called the Association for Spiritual Integrity. It started over a luncheon meeting that we had at the Science and Non-Duality Conference after I had given a talk on the ethics of enlightenment. I sat down with Jack O’Keefe and Craig Holliday and John Prendergast and we just started chatting and decided to create an organization to try to popularize a standard or a code of ethics that spiritual teachers could reasonably be expected to measure up to. Because there’s so many examples, but there have been so many examples where teachers are getting more and more off the rails and students are sitting there and they’re thinking, “Well, this is getting kind of weird, but this guy is supposed to be enlightened and I’m not, so what do I know? Maybe it’s crazy wisdom. I’ll just go along with it.” I just think that’s created so much harm.
Angelo: Yeah, it’s unfortunate. It’s unnecessary now because there are very good, authentic teachers. So I guess I’m interested in, you’ve been doing these interviews and conversations with spiritual teachers for how many years?
Rick: Oh, about 15 or so. I did the first one in the fall of 2009 and I started putting them online in January or February of 2010.
Angelo: So I think I just have kind of a grab bag of different sorts of questions that I’m genuinely curious about and I’m sure a lot of people are. Maybe I’ll just toss them out and see what comes. So one thing I’m curious about is having interviewed hundreds of people, do you notice any specific trends, not necessarily trends, but let’s say practices that stick out as far as what you feel at the gut level are valuable spiritual practices? We already talked about meditation, obviously, but does something stick out as far as maybe even a certain approach based on a Buddhist approach or an Advaita Vedanta approach or something? I’m curious what your gut instinct is on that.
Rick: Well, I saw this little card the other day. It was almost like a bookmark, but it was more rectangular. But it had 10 quotes from Ramana Maharshi and the first quote was, “The best practice for somebody to do is the one that they can do most easily.” And I’ve heard variations on that, such as like, “The best practice for you to do is the one that you’re actually going to do on a regular basis.” So there’s that. And I definitely am not a one-size-fits-all kind of guy. Obviously, I wouldn’t be able to do this show if I were. And I’ve seen so many different people benefit from so many different approaches. And some of the great traditions are tailored that way. I mean, you look at Hinduism and there’s bhakti and there’s jnana and there’s raja yoga and karma yoga and there’s all kinds of different approaches to suit people’s temperament, because people are different. And I think some people are just not suited to sit down, close their eyes, and do a silent meditation practice. It just doesn’t go easily for them. They might need some more active thing. And others are more devotionally oriented and more heart-oriented. The heart may be their path. Others are more intellectual and so on. Does that answer your question?
Angelo: Yeah. Yeah, that does, actually. And I think that really resonates with my experience as well. The other question that’s somewhat related to this is, do you find or have you found any practices, approaches, techniques, things like that that could be detrimental or that would give people cautions before they use or investigate?
Rick: Yeah, two things come to mind. And there may be others. But the first is plant medicines and ayahuasca and psychedelics and all that, which I readily acknowledge have been of tremendous value for people when used in an extremely responsible way. And there’s great research taking place at Johns Hopkins and NYU and other places showing great benefit for people with PTSD and alcoholism and terminal cancer patients who are afraid of death and then are no longer afraid once they have this deep mystical experience. So there’s great potential there. But as we saw in the ’60s, if it’s used just kind of as a party thing or used recreationally, people can get into trouble. And I also think that if a person thinks that they’re going to be able to do these things every weekend or whatever and after X amount of time arrive at some abiding, liberated state, I’m very skeptical of that. I haven’t seen it. And I think the greatest value of it perhaps is as an eye-opener, as it was for me. But after that, you have to do something different probably. Or as, who was it? Some well-known teacher, he said, “When you get the message, hang up the phone.”
Angelo: Yeah. It might have been Ram Dass. Was that Ram Dass?
Rick: No, it was that other guy. It may or may not come to me. Ram Dass has a lot of great quotes too, like, “If you think you’re enlightened, go spend a weekend with your parents.”
Angelo: Yeah, that’s a great one. And it’s absolutely true.
Rick: Yeah. So, there’s that. I also think the whole Neo-Advaita thing has been problematic for some people. I had a whole interview about this with a woman named Jessica Eve four or five months ago and she had dove deep into that world and really felt that it discombobulated her, that she became very, I don’t know, disintegrated and was getting out of touch with her humanity. And, you know, I think that there too, the teachings that those people offer can be valuable to a certain niche, to a certain segment of the spectrum of spiritual seekers, but they’re not for everybody. And as Jessica and I discussed, she has been in touch with people who became nihilistic, suicidal, lost interest in their job and children and family because the world is an illusion and there is no self and yada, yada. That was drilled into the point where they just became kind of flat and non-feeling. And no one’s here to defend that perspective right now, so I’m just expressing my impression of it. But I have seen harm from it, I think, and Jessica, who’s much more focused on it, has become a kind of a hearing ground, or whatever you would call it, for people who are having these kinds of problems. They’re getting in touch with her and she’s in dialogue with a lot of people and building up her website, but it’s really been a problem. And then, so, okay, so harm. And then the whole thing about ethics, there have been so many situations where teachers have behaved unethically and have really harmed people. It might just be disillusionment or it might be financial disaster. I know of one teacher that has, kind of impressive, and people say that in his presence you feel something the way you were just describing, but if he finds out that a student of his has an inheritance, for instance, this happened recently, an inheritance of $900,000, he said, “Oh, you should have told me because that money has Asuric energies attached to it and I can purify it for you and it’s going to do you great harm unless you sign it over to me.” And the guy actually signed it over to him, and then later regretted it. So there are teachers who, I don’t know if they’re oblivious to what they’re doing or are actually just such scoundrels that they know what they’re doing and are intentionally ripping people off, but there have been things like that. And then, of course, the sexual scandals. So the whole spiritual field is a bit of a minefield, and that’s part of the reason why we established the ASI, just to try to contribute in some way to making it safer and more wholesome for … because this is the most precious thing in life, and nothing could be more precious. And if it’s misrepresented or abused in some way, it’s such a crime, and I just feel very strongly about that.
Angelo: Oh, I’m with you there. One of the major impetus I had to write the book I wrote was this, and you probably noticed I have a whole chapter on teachers. I really tried to be specific about what to look for because some people don’t fall prey to things like that quite as easily. I mean, anyone can fall prey in the right set of circumstances to a sociopath or whatever. I mean, anyone can be fooled. But some people, I’ve met many who genuinely want to live out of their heart. They’re interested in deepening their insight as well, but they do fall for the validation games that some people can play and the culty sort of behavior, the love bombing, all that kind of stuff. And it’s really unfortunate because why take advantage of somebody who’s trying to orient to the best part of themself? It’s really tragic in a sense.
Rick: Yeah, it’s such a violation of trust. I mean, it’s similar to what happened in the Catholic Church with all the priests abusing the boys and all that stuff. You come to this thing wanting to get in touch with God, and then someone who claims to be representing God or in our world representing higher consciousness or something does that sort of thing. It’s not like you’re a doctor. You have to pass certain tests to become a doctor, and you could lose your license if you violate certain ethical standards and so on, or malpractice kind of things. But in the spiritual field, it’s kind of the Wild West in a way. There’s really no formalized training for most teachers, and people are more or less self-certified as spiritual. They just get up and start teaching. So the checks and balances are not there. There’s no organization which has authority over them. And I’m not implying that the Association for Spiritual Integrity wants to have authority. It’s not within our purview to do that. But it really kind of is incumbent upon the students, I think, to exercise and develop their own discernment and discrimination and cut and run if something seems to be seriously off.
Angelo: Yeah. Yeah. I’m with you. I’m totally with you there. As we were talking, another question came to me. It might have just slipped out of my mind, but it is related to this. I’ll come back to that. So you have interviewed how many?
Rick: I’m up to 670 or something like that.
Angelo: Can you just off, I guess, off the top of your head or just kind of shooting from the hip, can you kind of name a few teachers you think really stick out as far as qualities that make a good spiritual teacher or transmitter or facilitator of this whole process?
Rick: Yeah. Well, in terms of some of the well-known ones, I like Adyashanti a lot. I’ve interviewed him quite a few times and been to his house a few times, spent the night there, gotten to know him personally. And I just think he is a top-notch guy, very nice blend of high and grounded at the same time. You know, genuine, he’s got something, great depth and also great humanity and integration. I like Swami Sarvapriyananda a lot. He’s the head of the New York Center of the Vedanta Society. And I actually take classes with him regularly on the Gita and the Upanishads online. And I think he’s just a really genuine article. And there are so many more, I mean, I don’t want to…
Rick: When I’m asked to answer this question, I’m obviously leaving out tons of people.
Angelo: Of course, yeah.
Rick: These are just some people that I’ve sort of been more involved with. Oh my goodness. You know, I mean, I should probably pull up my website and start scanning down the list.
Angelo: It’s a bit of an unfair question because obviously out of hundreds and hundreds, you’re not going to have readily available access to everyone in your mind.
Rick: One thing I can say about that though is that one of the perks of doing this is that I’ve made so many wonderful friends around the world whom I never would have met, just I’ve met these amazing people and formed deep, lasting friendships. And it’s been incredibly beneficial to me. Each interview is incredibly beneficial. I mean, I just feel really energized and enlivened by the process of preparing for and actually doing the interviews. But then, you know, I’ve just found this beautiful network of friends. I have long files of people who said, “If you’re ever in my area, you’ve got to come and visit.” And they’re in every continent of the world except Antarctica.
Angelo: I love it. Yeah, I love it. So I have another question associated with that. I probably should have asked him in reverse order. So this question is not specific to any certain teacher, but what do you think makes a spiritual teacher a good teacher? What qualities, whether they’re personal qualities or approaches, what do you see in teachers that you go, “Wow, that’s a powerful resource for people who are interested in spirituality”?
Rick: Okay. And so when you ask almost any question, or anybody does, I usually just lead with what comes to mind as you’re asking it. So what came to mind as you were asking that is integrity and also not being presumptuous. Not presumptuous, that’s not the right word, but just what you see is what you get. Not trying to portray themselves as something which they’re not. Not putting on airs or lording it over people, but just a straight shooter. And very often, some of these people at least, they readily admit that they are a work in progress and I personally feel that everybody is. In fact, St. Teresa of Avila said it appears that the Lord Himself is on the journey. So if He is, then I think the rest of us are. And many of them, they’ll go and do a retreat with other teachers or go and have therapy once in a while just to make sure things are copacetic. And they don’t try to portray an image of perfection or being finished. And we’re all in this together and they have more of a kind of like a collective, if they have a group of students, it’s more like, “Okay, I’m sort of the centerpiece of this group, but we’re all on the path together and we’re helping each other,” as opposed to a hierarchical thing where I’m up on the dais and you peons are down there.
Angelo: Yeah, I’m with you. As you were speaking, and I completely agree with that, there can be, I would say even in sort of deeper stages of realization, there can still be an air of specialness. You may not even see it, but you may feel it about yourself and that’s going to transmit to everyone around you. But there’s something that can even drop out. And I’m reminded of the eighth oxfording picture where it says, “Is this a regular person or is this a Buddha?” Demons and saints can do nothing. Even Buddhas and Bodhisattvas can’t tell. So there should be, and it could be, absolute ordinariness. Why not? I mean, there’s no reason with any insight, with any stage of realization or any of that, there’s nothing that implores you to negate anything that’s human. In fact, if anything, you feel more comfortable as a human being, in the relative sense.
Rick: You kind of get that with the Dalai Lama. I mean, I’ve never met him, but he seems very self-effacing and very funny and down to earth. And even though everybody makes a great big fuss about him, it doesn’t seem to go to his head. And you feel like he’s the kind of guy you could sit and have tea with and just have a nice chat and you wouldn’t feel intimidated or anything. He’d just be like, he’d feel like your best friend as soon as you met him.
Angelo: Yeah, yeah, I agree. I like his very, very simple, natural sense of humor. The other person, obviously, recently deceased, but that I have deep, deep reverence for is Thich Nhat Hanh.
Rick: Oh yeah, sure.
Angelo: And he’s very similar in that way. I mean, I’ve never been around him, but he seems so approachable, vulnerable, human, honest, and a very potent transmitter of truth, of the Dharma.
Rick: Exactly, you were asking about teachers that I liked a lot. Dipping into Christianity for a moment, I really liked Father Thomas Keating. I got to interview him before he died, obviously. And Richard Rohr is really cool down in Albuquerque. And the people associated with him, like Cynthia Bourgeot and Jim Finley, there’s a whole crop of these very open-minded spiritual folks. And one of the criteria for BatGap is that we’re not just trying to interview the most famous people who are going to result in the greatest number of views on YouTube or something like that. In fact, the tagline for BatGap is “conversations with ordinary, spiritually awakening people.” And so we’re perfectly happy to find some housewife who nobody has ever heard of, but who’s had some kind of awakening and is an interesting person to talk to, that kind of thing.
Rick: Yeah, I love it. I love it. So shifting gears a bit, I’m curious about your view or your instinct on the, I don’t know if it’s a dichotomy, but there are some people, I would say, that are deeply realized, that are awake beings that don’t really have an interest in describing anything from specifically a spiritual standpoint or from a spirit standpoint or devotional. So people that come to mind are like Gary Weber, for instance, pretty much a scientist. He thinks in terms of scientific, the default mode network and so forth. Maybe John Sherman, actually. Not necessarily scientific, but he kind of strips his message of spiritual terminology.
Rick: Is he the guy who had been in prison and everything and then he died recently?
Rick: Yeah, he died recently.
Rick: Yeah. And Gary Weber, yeah, he’s a scientific guy, but he definitely had a radical experience, which he talks about all the time, which is he was doing an asana one day, standing on his shoulders or something, and all of a sudden he stopped thinking and he hasn’t had a thought since.
Rick: So he says, I pressed him on that a lot because I said, “If you’re talking to me, you’re having thoughts because thoughts precede words or actions, but you just mean your mind isn’t full of chatter.” But anyway.
Angelo: Yeah. So I guess my question is not really about their authenticity because certainly with Gary and John, I mean, the authenticity to me is clear, but do you have any sense that it matters? Does it matter if we use spiritual terminology to talk about this awakening process, whether we do or don’t? Is there a disadvantage or an advantage either way, or do you have a sense of that at all?
Rick: I think we all have different roles to play. And some person might be a … Well, some person might be a … Let’s say Yo-Yo Ma was spiritually awake. I don’t think he is, who knows, but his role is a cellist. And he doesn’t have to use spiritual terminology to do anything. He just plays his cello and everybody benefits from it. So I don’t think that there’s a necessary correlation between having a spiritual awakening and hanging out a shingle of being a spiritual teacher or using spiritual terminology. You could be a janitor or something and just being kind to people and doing your job as a janitor, and you might not be pontificating about anything, but you’ve got this amazing, beautiful inner life.
Angelo: And I’ve met people who are exactly that, just have no interest whatsoever in having a public image, and yet they’re liberated. I mean, they radiate love and compassion and presence. Yeah, it’s amazing.
Rick: In fact, I have a friend named Harry Alto who is another person that I think has impressed me a lot. I’ve known him for a long time since, because he used to be in the TM movement, or maybe still is. And it took me like five or eight years to talk him into coming on BatGap because he just didn’t want to have a public profile. But he has a very profound level of inner realization and has had since he was a child, and it’s been progressing ever since. And then he finally realized he kind of liked talking about it and enjoyed talking to people and everything. But again, we all have different roles to play, and not all of us are meant to be teachers. In fact, there’s this phenomenon in India that they call “babbling saints.” There might be someone who is really awakened but completely incompetent to explain it or express it, and if he tries to, it’s just gibberish.
Angelo: That was probably me for many years after awakening. I’m sure it would have happened if I had tried. Do you think, do you feel—actually, I’ll get to that question in a minute. That’s maybe more of a later on, into the discussion question. So you interview people who are channelers, people who have or describe sort of Siddhi-type abilities, maybe.
Rick: Like mediums or things like that sometimes.
Angelo: Mediums, yeah. Mediums, channelers, maybe people who do astral projection and these sorts of things. What is your sense of that? Is it something that we should investigate if we’re interested in awakening spirituality and so forth? Should we not? Or is it something that chooses you? And I guess just in general, what do you think, what is your feel of it? How accessible is that kind of stuff?
Rick: Yeah. Most of the people I’ve interviewed in that realm didn’t seek out those abilities. It just started to happen to them. Like there’s this lady named Suzanne Giesemann who’s a medium, and she was actually the main assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. military. She was in the last plane in the sky after 9/11 because she was flying over to Europe with the head of the Joint Chiefs, and they had to turn around and come back when 9/11 happened. Anyway, she just kind of out of the blue started having these psychic or medium-type experiences where she was clearly communicating with someone who had deceased, and now it’s her main focus. She does some kind of channeling thing also. Personally, I don’t have any attraction to developing it myself, but the reason I cover those kinds of topics is that I think that, and also near-death experiences are very interesting and out-of-body experiences that often accompany near-death experiences, just that I think it gives people a greater sense of the landscape of the universe or the different realms that exist in creation, because it’s not just this gross realm that we ordinarily perceive and the transcendent that we might awaken to if we have an awakening. There’s a lot of stuff in between, and I suppose you could get hung up there if you put undue emphasis on it, but you are probably going to encounter it to some degree or another as you progress, and to shut yourself down and refuse to believe that it even exists is probably not going to be helpful. So it’s a little bit delicate dance, but without becoming overly obsessed with it, it’s good to be aware of that. At least I find it interesting to understand those subtler mechanics of creation, to be open to the possibility, for instance, of there being celestial beings like angels or devas, and those kinds of words, which have something to do with the way our lives are lived. They might be interacting with us even if we don’t realize it, and which might have something to do with the way the creation itself is conducted. There could be impulses of intelligence that help to govern the creation, because as I see it, the creation, I mean if I really wanted to take it to its ultimate view, it’s all God, there’s nothing else. God meaning an infinite ocean of intelligence, creativity, energy that’s interacting with itself and giving rise to the appearance of separate beings and separate objects and stars and planets and galaxies and all that, but it’s really all contained within the wholeness of God, Saguna Brahman as Vedanta calls it. And I’m getting a little bit carried away with this answer, but anyway, that’s what came out of my mouth.
Angelo: Great, I love it. I’m with you, man. I agree with the vast majority of everything you said, and also I try not to highlight it when I talk about spirituality and so forth, because it can become a distraction, and yet if you’re not open to the possibility of it, you’ll, well, I don’t know. I have people who, going through awakening, will contact me and say, “Does this ever happen where you feel like a being in your room with you, an entity? It’s here. I’ve never felt anything like this. Is that okay? Is that normal?” So I get that. I definitely get that from people. And a couple other things that are interesting, I don’t talk about my own stuff with this, almost, I will on occasion, I’m not totally avoidant to talking about it, but often when people ask, I sense where they’re asking from is more just a distraction than anything. But I will occasionally mention it. And I mean, I’ve had visions of things happening in a very, very specific way, and then it happens the next day, like major events. And it doesn’t happen frequently, but I’ve definitely had it to where it’s completely undeniable. It was like very specific incidents and people and situations. But I personally don’t worry too much about it. I don’t try to look for it. And I don’t feel like I can do it on command at all. It’s nothing like that. But when you have access to unbound consciousness, you have access to a whole hell of a lot, including the history of human suffering and everything that goes along with it. So you can find yourself in some very, very interesting places with this. And I think it’s important to at least be aware of that as possible.
Rick: Yeah. And as you implied, I mean, there’s the whole new age wing of all this where it gets very woo-woo and people are just totally obsessed with all kinds of stuff. And I think very often they end up indulging in flights of fantasy. And they’re not really cutting to the quick of what’s important. But on the other hand, we don’t have to be black and white about it. And we can go for the highest first, if we want to phrase it that way, but also enjoy some of the scenery that we’re bound to encounter along the way. And another thing, a little bit along these themes, is that the idea of everything being this sort of vast, intelligently orchestrated play and display. In my own life, I find it increasingly fascinating that as events unfold, they seem to be scripted in a way by some intelligence much more wise than me. And something will happen or someone will come into my life and I’ll think, “Well, this is interesting. I wonder where this is going.” And I kind of feel like I’m in a play written by a master playwright. And as a character in that play, I have a certain amount of volition and improvisational authority. I can kind of move it this way and that. But the larger picture as life unfolds often exceeds my expectations. And I’ve learned to trust it. And it’s brought me blessings that wouldn’t have come along if I had been the one to decide what was supposed to happen.
Angelo: Yeah. Yeah. I’m with you. Yeah. The word “intelligence” in what we’re talking about, I find to be really heavily weighted and triggering for some people. It’s not for me at all. But what I think is interesting about it, I think the discernment is, there is an egoic-based idea about God or intelligence that does sort of project the human image into some belief about a male archetype.
Rick: Yeah, they anthropomorphize it.
Angelo: But that’s not what we’re talking about.
Rick: No, we’re not. We’re not talking about some big guy in the sky with a beard smiting us with lightning bolts or whatever. We’re talking about an unbounded ocean of consciousness in motion.
Angelo: Yeah. And to me, the entry point to that or the distinction is, this kind of intelligence that we’re talking about is a sort of reverence and a sublimity. I don’t know if that’s the right way to say it. But it’s a sublime experience to realize there’s something so far beyond you. It’s a vulnerable place to be as well. And you have to go in surrendered. But when you do, if you’re willing to and able to, you’re kind of in awe of it. It’s a very awe-inspiring knowing. And it’s not an intellectual knowing. It’s not a human structure of the way we think we are knowing. It’s just beyond all of that. It’s beyond all categories of the way our minds can know or apprehend anything, including perception. And that’s undeniable in my experience. Yeah.
Rick:That’s very nice. Yeah. “Let thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” There’s definitely a devotional aspect comes into it, because you just feel like there’s some kind of divine will that you can become more and more attuned to that really has your best interests in mind. And you just learn to trust it. But it’s not a drill sergeant. You still have your freedom to align with it or choose otherwise, if you wish. And maybe aligning with it may not mean only one possible course of action. There’s all kinds of possibilities. But it’s like that nursery rhyme, “Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.” It’s like the stream is doing most of the carrying of our canoe. And all we really have to do is sit in it and ride along. But you kind of have to use your oars a little bit, because otherwise you might drift off and get stuck in the bull rushes or hit some rocks or something. So we gently, gently down the stream. We gently guide the boat a little bit this way and that, make course corrections, use our discernment and our discrimination to make sure we’re staying in alignment with the current of the stream. And certainly not trying to row in the other direction. But being careful to stay aligned.
Angelo: Yeah, right. And I love how it’s, you know, you row your boat gently is spoken one time, but merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, four times. To approach it with a large measure of reverence, enjoyment, trust, actually, trust. I can almost break this whole thing down into a simple thing that would be trust life, like really trust, trust your instinct, but be willing to take your instinct down beyond your beliefs and conceptions and all of it. And it is merrily, merrily, merrily. And there is a dreamy quality to it as well.
Rick: It is. I mean, the dream part is sort of like, there’s a lot more to life than you realize, just as there’s a lot more to life than what you’re experiencing when you’re having a dream at night. And this trust, I mean, the way we’re talking right now might sound kind of glib or insensitive to somebody who’s really having a rough time of it, you know, who’s homeless or, you know, being abused by someone or any such thing. So we’re not, you know, oblivious to those situations and something should be done about them. And I think spirituality in a more large scale society level way could help to ameliorate a lot of those problems. You know, all these, in my opinion, things like economic inequity and environmental degradation and wars and all the terrible problems that beset humanity are symptomatic of the vast majority of people failing to develop the kind of thing we’ve been discussing here, failing to unfold the full potential which exists within each of us. And one of my primary motivations since I first became a meditation teacher, it was to make a contribution to helping to raise consciousness in the world in part because that would, I hoped, help to, you know, diminish these problems. I still believe that.
Angelo: So that leads me to this question you may have had before, you may not, I don’t know. But if you look back over the last 13 years or even beyond when you were doing interviews and so forth, do you get the sense that there’s a global movement toward awakening, and/or is it exhilarating? And what plays into that? What do you think has helped that along?
Rick: I think there is. And other people seem to think there is and others could argue that there isn’t. But you know, they say a rising tide lifts all boats. And I think the tide is rising. There’s some kind of shift happening in world consciousness, collective consciousness, and it’s making it more and more conducive to awakening, so more and more people are awakening. It’s almost like you could think that 2,000 years ago or whatever, the Buddha, for instance, had to be kind of a superman to pierce through the membrane of ignorance that existed in the world at that time. But these days the membrane has been thinned a lot by all the people, or maybe it’s just the trends of time, yugas or something. We seem to be in a phase where awakening is, or world consciousness is waking up, and I think it has to, considering the fact that we could really do ourselves in if it doesn’t, you know, with climate change or nuclear war or disease or whatever, any number of things could do us in. And so perhaps it’s even, if we’re speaking of some kind of cosmic intelligence orchestrating things, perhaps this awakening is a response to the circumstances that humans have created on this earth, which could be catastrophic. And personally I think if I didn’t recognize this, I might feel pessimistic just watching the news and seeing what’s going on. I may think, “How is all these problems going to get solved?” But I do think that something is happening, and that’s why I have been doing what I’ve been doing. I just want to be a participant in that.
Angelo: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I feel you. I agree. In the relative sense, I can’t know for sure or anything like that, but it certainly feels that way. And it’s very interesting. I remember learning in undergrad, like a religion course taught by this professor from Harvard Divinity School. She was a fascinating professor. She was an expert in Taoism, of all things. But I remember her saying, you know, that there was this idea that there was an actual shift that happened around the time of Buddha 2,500 years ago. You know, Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tse, Plato, Aristotle, all these, and then, you know, a few hundred years later, Christ. And I almost wonder if that was the initial injection into the human race, and it took us a couple thousand years for that to really start to flower and so forth. Who knows? Maybe that’s just a nice story. But there is certainly an acceleration now, and I think largely the Internet has really facilitated it. Strangely enough, it has. And we have ready—you know, gosh, a thousand years ago, you’d have to risk your life to travel from monastery to monastery just on the rumor of a spiritual enlightened spiritual master and then be disappointed and go to another one and another one. And you can get online now and turn on YouTube and find realized people who can show you how to wake up right now, how to dig into your own identity structures right now. It’s truly amazing, actually. I think it’s quite inspiring. And the thing that I think really connects, puts it together for me is I remember distinctly at the end of a Sashin that I did as in one week retreat, for whatever reason, this one, there’s always suffering in Sashin. There’s always a lot of inner turmoil and physical pain and stuff. But everyone could feel it in this one. There was so much suffering going on in all the people around us and I think some external circumstances in the world. And on the last day of my teacher’s Tei show, his last talk, I remember him saying something that really moved me. And he said, you know, the more you do this, the more sensitive you become and the more open you become to the suffering of the world. You can’t ignore it. And he said, and it feels a lot of times it will feel like you’re in an ocean of suffering. You’re just adrift in an ocean of human suffering if you just open your eyes and look around what’s going on in the world. And he said, I just want you to know that when you came this week and you voluntarily put yourself in this position to not only feel all that suffering, to feel your own suffering and to still keep going on and still digging in and inquiring and doing whatever you’re doing. He said, it matters. It really does matter. And it does make a difference. You may never know that difference. You may never actually see it even in this lifetime. But I want you to know it does. And that’s why we do this. And I believe in that. And I believe in just going to the depths of identity and beyond. And let the cards fall where they may. Have some trust in this intelligence we’re talking about. But you will be pleasantly surprised. Anyone will. And it does give me some faith. But we’re facing monumental challenges, of course.
Rick: Yeah. There’s a verse in the Gita with regard to individual practice. It says, “No effort is lost and no obstacle exists. Even a little of this dharma removes great fear.” And that was my experience from day one. Even a little bit of it made a big difference. And then over the years, it’s like putting money in a bank account or something, just doing spiritual practice. It builds up and it builds up. And it’s such a worthwhile thing to do. And it really pays off. It doesn’t preclude doing other things in life, having a family, having a job, playing tennis, whatever you like to do. But it’s just one thing you can add to your life, which tends to enhance everything else.
Angelo: Absolutely. Yeah. So a few last questions. I’m curious how you would respond to this. I try to gauge this towards someone who’s a beginner. Any video I do is just in case someone’s the first time they’ve seen this topic or it’s the first time that it’s felt deep for them or something salient is coming up. Do you have any suggestions as far as what kind of books, like maybe a small handful of books or passages that you think are particularly salient or potent in terms of spirituality?
Rick: One thing people could do is they could, well, in terms of what I have had to offer, they could go to batgap.com and they could look under the categorical index page and they could look at the different categories of interviews and people I’ve interviewed. And then they could click on one and go to that page and watch a little bit of the interview. And if the person interests them, I usually have some of their books listed there. And we also have a recommended books section on BatGap under resources, I think it is, that this lovely woman in Australia put together and it collects recommendations. We have a Facebook group with BatGap that has almost 17,000 members and she put out a call for book recommendations and people sent in all kinds of stuff and she organized them all. And so those are in all kinds of categories, books that have inspired people on their spiritual path. And I don’t think there is any one book, but you have to go with what catches your interest. A lot of people love Ramana Maharshi and his teachings are very pithy and simple and you can derive a lot of inspiration just from a little bit of reading. It might be a little tricky understanding what exactly he is saying in terms of meditating on the heart or on the sense of “I am” and all. You might need some meditation practice instruction to really get something that works for you. But a lot of people resort to him. And I don’t know, personally I read a book a week nearly or sometimes a couple of them in preparation for interviews and I really enjoy most of them. I turn them into audio books and I listen while I’m hiking in the woods every day. That way I get my exercise at the same time.
Angelo: Do you remember any of those books being surprising you or being particularly transformative when you were just casually reading it for an interview?
Rick: I guess, I don’t know, a lot of them. I like the guy that I just interviewed.
Angelo: I know I’m asking a hard question because you have gone through so much material.
Rick: Some of them are real challenging to me. Like there is this guy named Donald Hoffman who is a scientist and I spent all week or so hiking in the local park listening to his talks or maybe it was his book that I was listening to. I felt like my brain was going to explode because I really had to kind of stretch to understand exactly what he was saying. But by the end of the week I felt like I got it and I had a really good interview with him. So it really stretches me. When you’re in high school, you probably did this in high school biology class or maybe college, you watch these little videos of amoebas or maybe you look at them under a microscope and the amoebas are sort of moving along and they detect a speck of food and they kind of engulf the speck of food and incorporate it and then they keep moving and find another speck of food. So that’s kind of the way I am. Every week I have a new interview and I get to digest a new chunk of wisdom from somebody and I love just delving into their world and getting kind of mind melding with them as best I can and then having a conversation with them. I just find it incredibly enriching. I guess that points to a broader principle which is that that to which you give your attention grows stronger in your life. If you spend your spare time playing video games or something, that will have one effect. But if you’re really interested in the kind of things that you and I are talking about here, if you spend as much time as you can putting your attention on this kind of thing, both in terms of practice and in terms of knowledge you might find in books or YouTubes or whatever, that will have an influence and it will definitely accelerate your progress. Which brings in one other point, which is I think that both knowledge and experience are important. One without the other is lopsided. It’s like trying to walk on one leg. A spiritual practice which genuinely results in a deeper experience is great and important and also you need to understand more and more and more as you go along to supplement or counterbalance. Understanding or knowledge can be both inspiring in that it can give you a vision of possibilities, but it can also be clarifying, purifying. There’s a verse in the Gita which says there’s nothing so purifying as knowledge. And ultimately it can lead to the final realization when the finest level of intellect discerns between the absolute and relative and you can step into the Self or whatever. Anyway, those two things, if you keep the kettle simmering with both experience and knowledge and keep them both enlivening as you go along, it will be advantageous.
Angelo: I actually think that’s a really good beginning part of your answer as far as going to your library and finding a topic you’re interested in, watching the video, and if you resonate with that person, read their book. I had never even thought of that approach, as simple as it is. That makes a lot of sense, actually.
Rick: Yeah, I mean, your interview, I’m sure I listed your book on your interview page, so if a person were to watch that, then they’ll see your book listed on the page. They can go to Amazon or whatever and get it. Because it’s an investment of time to read a book, and you could spend the rest of your life, I mean, you could spend the next couple of years just watching all my interviews and the rest of your life reading all the books everybody has written, so you have to wittle it down a little bit. But if someone doesn’t interest you, you’re probably not going to like their book either. So read the people that you like. Adyashanti has some good books that are not long and that are quite edifying.
Angelo: He has incredible books, yeah. I love Emptiness Dancing. I love Resurrecting Jesus. I was actually a little hesitant to read it for some reason. It didn’t seem interesting, but I was blown away by it.
Rick: He and Francis Bennett and I had a nice conversation about that book, Resurrecting Jesus, which people can find on BatGap.
Angelo: Cool, yeah. All right, so here’s one last question. If you were able to … It’s kind of a two-part question, but the parts relate. And so if you were able to go back in time, and the first time Rick in the car, I don’t know if he was on acid or not taking the …
Rick: No, not while I was driving the car, although I did that too, but at that time I wasn’t.
Angelo: When you heard the word enlightenment and something resonated with you. And the second part of the question is, anyone who’s listening to this and something resonates about that, about that possibility for them, what general advice would you give that person? And or the person who says, “I’ve been suffering my whole life, and now I sense there’s some way to actually address that.” What general kind of guidance might you give that person?
Rick: Well, there’s a Rumi quote, which I just found the other day. I’m going to pull it up. It’ll only take me a second here.
Angelo: Sure, oh yeah, take your time.
Rick: Resources, quotes, here I am on my website. Get down to … here’s Rumi. Here’s the quote. It’s … here you go. He said, “As you start to walk on the way, the way appears.” Got that? “As you start to walk on the way, the way appears.” So, I mean, there was a Raiders of the Lost Ark, I think, where Harrison Ford had to cross this canyon, and there was no bridge there or something, but as he took each step, the bridge materialized, and he was able to walk across the canyon. So it’s kind of like that. There’s a great quote from Goethe, too, about how you just … I can find that one, too. You remember the quote I’m referring to?
Angelo: I actually don’t know that one.
Rick: Okay, hang on. Maybe you can edit out these little gaps if you want, but I’m going to find this quote. Okay. Goethe, wait a minute. G,O,E, there he is. Oops, sorry. He said, “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Considering all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans, that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events, issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”
Rick: How do you like that?
Angelo: That is powerful.
Rick: Isn’t that great? And so that applies certainly to the spiritual path, I think. Just take a step and then take another step, and one thing will lead to the next, and the path will be different for everybody to some extent, but it will appear before you like Harrison Ford’s bridge, or what Goethe says, “All kinds of providence will come to your aid if you take the initiative.”
Angelo: That’s beautiful. There’s some gurus in India say, “Take one step towards me and I’ll take a thousand steps toward you,” and I think we could apply that to the divine or God or whatever if we wanted also.
Angelo: I find that to be exactly true. It really is like, I think sort of that first place people find themselves with this is there’s so much hesitancy and so much doubt mass, but when they start to just take a step, there’s something, whether it’s inquiry, whether it’s learning to meditate, whether it’s going to a retreat on a leap of faith or something, things start changing. Things you can and things you cannot perceive start changing.
Rick: You don’t want to be a dilettante flipping about from this to that. You have to commit yourself to things to a certain extent, but you also don’t want to be pigheaded about it. If you’re doing something and you’ve been doing it for a year and nothing seems to be happening, maybe it’s the wrong thing for you. Look around. Be open to what other guidance might be coming your way.
Angelo: Yeah, I agree. It’s somewhat of a dance. Yeah. Beautiful. Well, I think it’s been a great conversation. We’ve covered a lot of ground. I’m certain people are going to get a lot out of this. I appreciate you agreeing to do it. I know you’ve done several interviews before, but it was really great and just to catch up. Yeah, thanks, Angelo.
Rick: Really appreciate it. And remember, if I ever miss a connection at the Denver airport, you’re going to be hearing from me.
Angelo: You can always give me a call. I actually live less than 10 minutes from the airport.
Rick: I know you do. I looked up your house one time when I was going to interview you and I said, “Well, the airport’s right there. This is good to know in case I ever miss a connection or something.” Not that I travel much these days, but you know what I mean. It’d be fun to visit you sometime.
Angelo: Yeah, you’re welcome to. Yeah.
Rick: Add you to that list I told you about.
Angelo: Totally. Yeah, maybe you could just retire and just travel.
Rick: I could if I wanted to. I don’t know, but that’s kind of exhausting. I get a lot more done sitting in one place than I would bopping around the world.
Angelo: Yeah, I’m the same way. Well, thanks again and I appreciate your time.
Rick: Yeah, thank you. Talk to you later. Bye.