607. Stephan Bodian, 2nd Interview

Stephan BodianStephan Bodian is a teacher in the nondual wisdom tradition of Zen, Dzogchen, and Advaita Vedanta and the founder and director of the annual School for Awakening, an intensive six-month program of exploration and study. His offerings are noted for their humor, warmth, spontaneity, and intimacy and combine direct pointers, lively dialogues, silent sitting, and guided self-inquiry. He’s the author of several books, including Wake Up Now: A Guide to the Journey of Spiritual Awakening and Beyond Mindfulness: The Direct Approach to Lasting Peace, Happiness, and Love.

Stephan spent a decade practicing Zen intensively as a monk but left the monastery because he sensed that the rigorous practice of meditation was obscuring the truth he was seeking. After studying Dzogchen for several years, he met his guru, Jean Klein, a European teacher of Advaita Vedanta, who told him to stop meditating and instead discover the meditator. Shortly after meeting Jean, he had a profound awakening to his true identity as timeless presence. After Jean’s death, Stephan met Adyashanti, and in 2001 Adya gave him Dharma transmission and invited him to teach.

Trained as a psychotherapist, Stephan also offers individual spiritual counseling and mentoring sessions to people throughout the world. His approach blends direct, experiential, nondual wisdom with the insights of Western psychology to support students in realizing who they really are while inquiring into the stories and patterns of thinking and behaving that continue to cause suffering.

Some of the main points discussed in this interview:

  • What does spiritual integrity really mean?
  • Absolute and relative levels of truth
  • “There is no right or wrong, but right is right, and wrong is wrong.”
  • The role and deeper meaning of ethical precepts.
  • Understanding the power dynamics of the teacher-student relationship.
  • How teachers abuse their sacred responsibility and act out of integrity.
  • “The teacher represents a whole world of meaning to the student.”
  • Teachers who claim to be enlightened may relegate their students to endless endarkenment.
  • Why narcissists are drawn to becoming spiritual teachers.
  • How students are taken in by misguided teachers.
  • The crucial role of discernment on the path: “The true guru is inside you”.
  • The importance of peer feedback and personal counseling as teachers mature in their role.
  • Sex in the forbidden zone: Wanderers, predators, and boundary confusion.
  • Acknowledging and integrating the shadow.
  • How to know when it’s time to leave a teacher.
  • The future of the spiritual teacher-student relationship in the West.
  • The endless nature of the awakening journey.

Website: stephanbodian.org

Other books:

Discussion of this interview in the BatGap Community Facebook Group.

Transcript of this interview.

First BatGap interview with Stephan.

Interview recorded July 11, 2021

Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast.

YouTube Video Chapters:

  • 00:00:00 – Introduction to Buddha at the Gas Pump
  • 00:05:20 – A Shift in the Locus of Identity
  • 00:10:00 – The Vastness and Dream States
  • 00:15:05 – Roshi’s Uninhibited Behavior and the Fall of the Center
  • 00:20:18 – Bodhidharma’s Precepts and Acting in Integrity
  • 00:25:13 – The Ugly Truth and Confrontational Behavior
  • 00:30:15 – Dealing with the Shadow and Integrity
  • 00:35:01 – Narcissism in Spiritual Teachers and the Direct Path
  • 00:39:53 – Awakening and the Role of the Teacher
  • 00:44:51 – The Role of Teachers and the Need for Discernment
  • 00:49:48 – The Impressionability of the Mind
  • 00:54:19 – The Interface Between Science and Spirituality
  • 00:57:59 – The Direct Meeting and Potential for Transmission
  • 01:01:23 – The Pitfalls of Spiritual Teachers and Sex
  • 01:05:31 – Boundary-crossing and predatory behavior
  • 01:09:01 – Spiritual Teachers and Dark Triad Qualities
  • 01:12:56 – The Importance of Care in Spiritual Evolution
  • 01:16:34 – Relationships and Higher Callings
  • 01:19:59 – The Literary Invention of Crazy Wisdom
  • 01:23:47 – Compassionate Being and True Crazy Wisdom
  • 01:27:12 – Starting a New University
  • 01:30:43 – The Strange Fit Between Narcissists and Spiritual Teachers
  • 01:34:16 – Embracing Human Relationships
  • 01:37:51 – Giving Power Away and Seeking Enlightenment
  • 01:41:49 – Being Your Own Authority
  • 01:45:11 – The Horse and the Whip
  • 01:48:28 – Different Spiritual Teachers and their Teachings
  • 01:51:57 – The True Guru Within
  • 01:55:49 – The Awakening Journey
  • 01:59:32 – The Role of a Spiritual Teacher
  • 02:03:10 – School for Awakening