Stephan 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.
- Meditation For Dummies, w/Audio CD(Also available in various languages.)
- Timeless Visions, Healing Voices: Conversations With Men & Women of the Spirit
- Perfect Brilliant Stillness, by David Carse – book mentioned during interview as one of Stephan’s favorites. Free to read online. Audio version on Audible: Perfect Brilliant Stillness
Discussion of this interview in the BatGap Community Facebook Group.
Interview recorded July 11, 2021
Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast.