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 over 600 of them now. And if this is new to you, and you’d like to check out previous ones, please go to bat gap comm bat gap, and look under the past interviews menu. 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 a page explaining some alternatives to PayPal if you want to pursue one of those. My guest today is Steven Bowden. Steven was on bat gap. When was the CEO in 2014 2017, I think maybe 14 or 14 Okay, way back. And he will introduce himself in a moment. But I listened to our previous interview during the week and I thought, well, we covered a lot of interesting stuff. And we’ll try to cover somewhat different stuff today. But you know, you might want to watch that one also. You’ll find it on Bandcamp. And I will link to it from the Backup page of this interview. So Steven, why don’t you just go ahead and rather than me read a prepared bio that he sent might be more interesting if you just sketch out a little bit of your your history.
STEPHAN: Yeah, well, first of all, I’d like to say that I’m a teacher in the non dual wisdom tradition of Zen Advaita and Zog, Chen Maha Mudra, which are all traditions that I studied, although primarily Zen, Zen monk for 10 years, then spent 10 years with John Klein, and 2001 ology. Shanti told me to go teach, and I’ve been doing it ever since. And I’m also a psychotherapist. So I bring together the understanding of the Western tradition of psychology and the eastern spirituality that I studied. And I offer every year, a six month program intensive program in non dual spiritual realization called the School for awakening, as well as classes and other things and as well as spiritual counseling. So yeah, and for the purposes of what we’re going to talk about today, you know, I, I began practicing, you know, Buddhism, Zen in particular way back, as I often say, after taking, having some psychedelic journeys went a little awry. But even, which is, you know, a common experience, a lot of scatter start, even before that, a lot of us got our start, and, you know, still do, you know, but I had already been interested in in Zen and Eastern spiritual traditions in high school. And then in college is when I started doing it seriously, spend 10 years doing that. And one of the things that drew me to and kept me going, was my relationships with teachers. So we’re going to be talking today about ethics, spiritual integrity, how teachers go astray what happens in this very intimate relationship between a teacher and their students. And first, I want to say that teachers have been crucial to my own spiritual journey. And I have fallen in love with several teachers to great effect, and it’s had a transformative effect on my life. So, so So I want to begin that way to give the understanding that, as far as I’m concerned, teachers are not necessarily essential but have a really important role to play in the spiritual journey. Some people wake up without teachers, but when they do, they often need a teacher afterward to help them Orient, which is why a lot of people come to me or they you know, a teacher galvanizes them and provides an example to them of what realized person looks like sounds like acts like hopefully, as, as we’ll discuss, and, and that’s a very important function.
RICK: Yeah. I might add that you were the editor of Yoga Journal for 10 years, which is how I first heard of you way before I started doing this But your name, I wasn’t a regular subscriber, but I would read it every now and then and your name would pop up. One thing that you you mentioned quite a few times in our first interview, you referred to your awakening, you had an awakening. But you know, I didn’t actually probe you at all in that first interview of what exactly happened. And what I’m kidding. A lot of people use define that term in different ways. And so perhaps it would help to have you explain what happened to you?
STEPHAN: Yeah, well, the way I define it is, and then I’ll talk about my own spiritual awakening, the way I define it, when I teach is, this from the tradition that I come from, from my own experience, is a fundamental shift in the locus of our identity. You know, we thought were there that we were this little someone, you know, with all our foibles, and all our memories, and all our narratives and stories and beliefs and, and forms of suffering. And we wake up to realize that we are the vastness, the openness, in which all that’s arising, right. And that fundamental shift is really what constitutes true spiritual awakening. And I practice for many years, frankly, I practice in for 10 years, very intensively. And I had no idea what spiritual awakening is, no one ever told me. So. So I actually got a few glimpses, but didn’t realize that that’s what they were, and no one was there to say, oh, you know, that’s kind of what we’re talking about here. Maybe just keep going in that direction. But then, I left Zen and experimented with several other traditions, and then stumbled upon John Klein, who was one of the teachers that I truly fell in love with. If I had a guru, he was certainly my guru. And after six months, was Ron Klein with John Klein, he said, Don’t make meditation, that habit. You know, if you’re if you meditate, the only purpose to meditation is to find out a meditator discover the meditator. So six months into knowing John Kline, in the middle of a retreat, I had something I had to do, I had to leave the retreat, I was in my car. And suddenly something he had said, went through my head, somebody had said several times, it said, the seeker is the thought. Looker is what he or she is looking for. Now, you know, you can you can read these things in many places, but being fresh to this path, never having heard of Ramana, Maharshi, Nisargadatta, Maharaj. Just being with John Kline, this really struck me. And as I was driving it all, everything turned inside out, I suddenly realized I was the space, which was eternal. There was no absolutely no going away from it. And I was driving through myself, right? That was the nature of the realization. And it was a powerful recognition. It knocked my socks off, as they often do. Not always, but often. And not, you know, faded into the background, I would say the ego and its habits reasserted itself. But it never, I never lost that. And it continued to mature over time. And it was actually terrifying. The realization I went through, I like to say this, so people who have similar experiences feel like they’re not alone. I was terrified by I felt like the ground had been pulled out from under my world. And there was no ground. And it scared the life out
RICK: of me. Yeah. In our last interview, we talked about Suzanne Siegel, a little bit who wrote collision with the infinite and she was a friend of yours. And she went through like 10 years of terror, because she had such a shift and had no idea what it was. And she just assumed she couldn’t find a sense of personal self anymore. And it freaked her out.
STEPHAN: Exactly, exactly. The self was looking for the self. Yeah, the mind kept looking for itself and couldn’t find it.
RICK: And in fact, it was John Klein, who kind of resolved it for her
STEPHAN: by saying stop the mechanism, the mind that keeps looking, basically, and she didn’t that was that was the end of this. Yeah, yeah.
RICK: So one thing you made clear, is that this was not just some intellectual realization or something. It was a deep, visceral, experiential shift. And you also said that, you know, while you still had the ego with its foibles and all, but there was kind of a new element that your essential identity had shifted from just that ego to something much faster. Kind of like you had been the wave all of your life and all of a sudden you realize you’re the ocean, but you’re still a wave, but yet you’re the ocean.
STEPHAN: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Right. Yeah, I would say boundaryless openness is the way I’d like to describe it these days. But at the time, you know, the vastness it was just vast, you know, non locatable, and always present always already present, you know, never, never gone. Always. They’re always awake. Always prison. Yeah.
RICK: Does it ever persist during sleep? Or do you just conk out during sleep?
STEPHAN: Sometimes? Yeah. Sometimes I find myself awake in dreams. And some people report not always but sometimes.
RICK: Sure, yeah. I have a friend who has had an awakening like that. And she has to be real careful, really careful while driving, because if she looks at the sky, or some such thing, the vastness becomes so overwhelming that she’s afraid she’s gonna crash the car, you know, it’s like she doesn’t have
STEPHAN: that’s very. That’s very common. I’ve actually heard that from the AP. Yeah. Yeah. Just an interesting happened while I was drawn, yeah.
RICK: I have a feeling that that’ll go away for her when there’s been more integration or something.
STEPHAN: Yeah, I suspect Yeah.
RICK: All right. So at what point in the game, did spiritual integrity become so important to you? And why?
STEPHAN: Well, you know, I had the good fortune of having some wonderful teachers in the beginning, Suzuki Roshi, of course, beautiful teacher, and I got to spend a little over a year with him, but you know, that a very deep impact on me and then my Zen teacher for about six years after that koban Chino, also a beautiful teacher with utmost integrity, I would say, and who was like a big brother to me, really. We were very close. And they died. And but then he didn’t die until 2002. Actually, I. So what happened was, I wanted to do more, what I called Serious Zen practice. And Corbin was a kind of a renegade and eccentric and artist, a poet. He didn’t want to do traditional Zen practice he had, he had left that behind. He wanted to do what he called gorillas and gee, we are I know everyone does it. Yeah, I kind of, you know, infiltrate the world with Zen, you know, not do anything traditional. And I was hankering after something, you know, wearing the robes during the rituals being in a monastery. And so I went to his house, and to meet with my zoomy Roshi, who was a more traditional Zen teacher. And I was very impressed with him. At first, he seemed very grounded, he seemed very serious and intense. He was doing more traditionals and practice including Cohen’s study, which I was very interested in. So I decided to leave koban and then go studied with Nezumi Roshi down in LA. And so I did that, and felt very at home in the community. It was very casual, very friendly. And I connected with the people there and was actually my junior, she’s attendant for a while, but my Azumi Roshi over time, I realized he was an alcoholic. Now, at the time, it didn’t really, and there’s a lot of drinking going on at the Zen Center, Los Angeles. In fact, after a long retreat, the custom was that you like to retreat and immediately got, you know, should face drunk. That was pretty much what was expected. Now, I wasn’t a drinker never had been didn’t follow that path. And not any out of any sense of virtue, particularly it just never appealed to me. And so it never felt quite right. But, you know, I didn’t see the the problems with it necessarily. We’d go for example, soak in the center, hot tub, and Roshi would come and he’d be really drunk on it. How
RICK: did people rationalize that? Because in my mind, I mean, I don’t know. Yeah, I mean, once I got on the spiritual path, I I soon started to feel much better all the time than alcohol drugs had ever been able to make me feel temporarily. And so I completely lost the taste for them. And if I had done them, I would have wanted to get over it as quickly as possible to get back to the lovely state of consciousness. I was in anyway all the time. So I don’t get it. Yeah, I don’t get it.
STEPHAN: I don’t get it either. And I’m with you. I wanted to keep as much clarity as I possibly could. Drinking and never been a part of my life. I think it was rationalized as Roshi is Japanese. This is what Japanese men do. Roshi is using it as an opportunity to teach us by saying outrageous things and poking at us in ways he wouldn’t feel trouble doing if he weren’t drunk. People used to really gather around review and he was drunk, because they rather enjoyed the way he would be with them, which was more uninhibited, you know, more provocative. So within the center, there was a kind of rationale around it. I, I didn’t buy into it, but I also didn’t question it seriously. In fact, one of the things I did I was, as I said, I was rashis attendant for six months. And then when Roshi went to visit Trungpa in Massachusetts, Trungpa was on a year long retreat in Charlemont. Massachusetts, give Trump that guy, show him Trump, right? Yeah, who could probably
RICK: drink Roshi under the table?
STEPHAN: Well, they were I think they were pretty well now. Okay, they have Oh, yeah. So I Roshi asked me even though I was no longer his attendant, he asked me to go back with him, because he thought I could stay sober. While those two were drinking. So he had me go back, spend seven days with Trungpa, and Roshi in Massachusetts. And I got to see them, you know, they are a bit noon, and they started drinking and, you know, throughout today, and they drink until 3am, and go to bed. So yeah, so but again, in that context, with Roshi drinking and turning on drinking, the same rather normal, you know, this is what no Buddhism had to offer. Can you imagine the Buddha doing 77? That’s right. Can you imagine the Buddha doing that? But Zen has always had, again, I’m not rationalizing, I’m just fine. People thought, good, bad boy. Yeah, yeah. The Crazy Wisdom, tradition, which we can talk. Yeah, separately. We’ll get to that. Yeah. But anyway, what finally ended up happening was that, at a certain point in my own practice, I realized, first of all, that sitting wasn’t enough for me in terms of my own unfolding, I began to notice psychological issues that I felt needed attention. And all I was being told by my teacher, Roshi was to sit more. And I realized that wasn’t cutting it that really wasn’t doing it. So I and I also felt there was something about the hierarchical structure, the center that really felt I would say, inappropriate and potentially abusive. And I could also sense intuitively, that there were things going on, it didn’t feel right. I didn’t know what they were, I just intuitively had that sense. So at a certain point, I left I decided to leave. Okay, I went back to school to study psychology, because I felt like I needed to understand my own psychology. And you know, the psychology people I worked with, if I was going to be a Zen teacher, so I left. And then, within two years, it became apparent, it was revealed that Roshi had been having a two year relationship with one of his senior students, a woman, both remarried both had children. And at that point, I would say the emperor had no clothes should hit the fan. And it was revealed that Roshi had been propositioning women in the interview room for years. And he went into alcohol treatment. And the center basically fell apart, didn’t completely dissolve, but people scattered that way. And I looked back and I thought, well, I guess my intuition was accurate. Yeah, you know, I was right.
RICK: Right. Well, that would make an impression on you.
STEPHAN: Yeah, certainly.
RICK: So maybe a overarching point here would be is if we want to use the word enlightenment, just for convenience sake. Is Well, there’s a there’s a was it phrase from Swami Sarver, Pa Nanda he likes to say, you can have ethics without enlightenment, but you can’t have enlightenment without ethics. And by ethics, we would mean a broad range of things, some of the stuff you just mentioned and other things. But do you agree with that statement by Swami Safra? Vijnana?
STEPHAN: I think fundamentally, yes. One of the first things that I studied as a Zen student with that first teacher koban was precepts, the precepts. He felt that it was appropriate for us to study the precepts. So they are we studied it. Well, the 10 grave prohibitory precepts And then they’re the three pure precepts and they’re like no killing, no
RICK: sounds like the Yamas Patanjali. That kind of Yeah,
STEPHAN: yeah. They call it the 10 grave prohibitory precepts, Thou shalt not write, basically. And there are, of course, different ways of interpreting these precepts. They’re interpreted on a range of strictness. But what Coburn said, which really left an impression on me, he said, The deepest interpretation of the precepts is what he called Bodhi Dharma as precepts. And Bodhi Dharma is precepts. Basically say that the precepts are a description of enlightened behavior. That the way to act ethically is how an enlightened person would act. So that’s the way I was being taught, the enlightened person acts this way. You see, and I think I agree, that’s the understanding, a truly awake person. Now, you know, we can have had awakenings. And we’re not always acting from our awakenings. So we can be genuinely awakened, but we’re not living at moment after moment, which may be the definition of enlightened, you know, the question of what is awakened and what is enlightened is a, you know, a very interesting one, it’s been talked about for millennia. But if we’re acting from the truth of our being the truth of our nature, how could we possibly abuse other people? Because they’re not separate from us? Yeah, yes,
RICK: kind of the Golden Rule Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. And, you know, obviously, if you’re enlightened, you should see others as you should, you know, quote, you will begin to see the self and all beings and all beings in the self.
STEPHAN: That’s right. That’s right. Yeah.
RICK: And I get the feeling just from observation and things I read that you can never completely let your guard down. There’s a famous quote from Pablo, some Baba, he said, although my awareness is as vast as the sky, my attention to karma is as fine as a grain of barley flour. So even a great cosmic dude was, you know, being vigilant to be
STEPHAN: exactly, exactly. Well, these are the these are the two truths that run through Mahayana Buddhism that run through Advaita Vedanta, the absolute and the relative truth. And both are true, you see, we have to act ethically at the same time. So sunstones name, the Korean Zen master said there is no right or wrong, but right is right and wrong. Which I think is beautifully put.
RICK: And here’s another one that’s in your notes. You’re perfect as you are, and you could use a little improvement.
STEPHAN: Suzuki Roshi was that, or he also said, you’re constantly losing our balance against the background of perfect balance. I think that it really is the the background of perfect balance is what we are fundamentally, but as individuals, as people, we’re constantly moving and losing our balance. And we need to be aware of that. Yeah. And humbled by that.
RICK: It’s kind of like riding a bicycle or skiing or anything, you’re, you could fall at any time you get really good at it. After a while it becomes second nature, but you still have to be, you know, attentive to what you’re doing and not good. Or you can crash.
STEPHAN: Yeah, no.
RICK: Okay, um, so we’ve touched on what integrity is, perhaps you if you want, you can elaborate it even more. And
STEPHAN: yeah, let me say a little more about. Well, the word integrity, I really love that word. Because it comes from the word integer, right? It kind of means one. So and so to me, integrity means you’re acting in alignment as one with the truth of your being. Similar to what you were saying, if you’re awake, if you know who you really are. And you’re acting in alignment with that you’re acting in integrity. Or you could say, you’re acting in alignment with truth at every level. See, if we’re devoted to truth. We need to be devoted to the truth at every level, not just absolute truth, but relative truth. We tell the truth, we don’t lie. You know, we act in truthful ways we act in integrity. So if we can understand very simply that integrity means acting in alignment. You know, we know who we are on our words and our deeds. Our actions are aligned in that way. I think that’s, I think we know what that is. If we check walking your talk, walking your talk,
RICK: and there’s a great phrase from somewhere who punish ads or someplace it says speak the truth. but speak the truth. That is sweet. You know, I mean, I remember there was a line from Winston Churchill, he came up to a woman at a party and said, Madam, you’re the ugliest woman I’ve ever seen. And she said, Mr. Churchill, you’re drunk? And he said, Yes, but I am. But in the morning, I’ll be sober. You’ll still be the ugliest woman I’ve ever seen. So yeah, that’s not sweet truth. That’s not sweet. And obviously, we can sort of a crude example. But you can think of people it’s
STEPHAN: not it’s not really the truth at all. It’s, you know, saying what other people are is not telling you the truth. Oh, saying what’s true for us? Yeah, you know, is really the truth. But it is an example
RICK: because sometimes people become confrontational and downright rude in their attempt to be truthful, you know? And that happens. Right? Yeah. Okay. So now let’s touch upon know, we talked about why, oh, how enlightenment and integrity go together. And we’ve given some examples of teachers who presumably had some attainment and yet we’re not acting in integrity. Let’s let’s talk about why the integrity is important in the teacher student relationship, both for the teacher and the student. And you outline different kinds of teachers, we can get into that, but maybe we just cover that main point first.
STEPHAN: Well, when I was studying Zen, one of the teachers in that lineage was Robert Akin, akin Roshi. And he wrote a lovely book actually called the mind of clover, which is about the Zen precepts, understanding the Zen precepts. And one of the things he says, which I continues to reverberate for me, is that the teacher represents a whole world of meaning to his or her students. So that when a teacher acts out of integrity, they’re not only betraying the student as a person, they’re betraying an undermining the students relationship to that view of reality to that path, which can be something that they’ve devoted their life to. And I saw that happen with my Azumi Roshi. I’ve seen it with other teachers, where when the teacher acts out of integrity, people’s faith in the in the Dharma, in the truth of awakening of suffering, the cause of suffering and the path of practice as a means to freedom. All of this gets undermined. So a teacher has an enormous responsibility to students, you know, in that regard, yeah. And
RICK: that’s huge. I mean, I know of examples of not only people losing interest in spirituality because of the behavior of some teacher, but actually a few examples of suicide because people just became so disillusioned and discouraged about life in general, because they, their trust had been violated so deeply.
STEPHAN: Absolutely. It cuts out very hard to the matter. We, we feel so deeply about our spiritual teachers, our spiritual teachings that, you know, that means so much to us. And when that’s been undermined, then it can be devastating, you know, at many levels. Yeah. So yes, I agree. Which
RICK: brings up another interesting point, which is that, you know, a lot of times these days, people are eager to become spiritual teachers. Somebody, I remember who somebody told me, they once overheard someone in an Adi Shanti retreat, say, you know, I can’t wait to get awakened. So I quit my job and become a spiritual teacher. But um, you know, I’ve, I’ve heard that in the Zen tradition, it’s recommended that after awakening you wait a decade before undertaking teaching activities, and perhaps other traditions have similar things. I know in the diamond approach, for instance, you know, Hamid Ali is not, you know, a Thomas is not in a big rush to qualify people, as teachers, you have to go through all sorts of rigorous rigorous training and qualification and all. So what about that? I mean, there are a number of examples these days of people just jump jumping. I
STEPHAN: think that’s true. I mean, there’s a famous, famous Zen master, who was it? I think it was one long Zen master, who studied with his teacher for 40 years. And finally, you know, achieved to complete enlightenment and then his teacher died has been two years at his grave. And then at the age of 60, he wandered around, testing his understanding for another 20 years, visiting other teachers until he finally settles down at 80 to teach for another 40 years till age 120. Now, probably a legend, but still put forth as exemplary behavior. Right. So yeah, I would say, to refine and deepen and clarify, or understanding is very important. And also to deal with potential shadow issues. Just as I did, I’m not saying you know, what I did was exemplary. I had no idea what I was doing. I was stumbling along. But I think it was a good idea what I did to leave and go into therapy, and study Western psychology, because I felt like the shadow needs to be needed to be dealt with no matter, Robert Bly men’s retreats, and I, you know, study yogi and psychology, because I felt like the shadow needs to be attended to. So the issue of the shadow is a really big one, you know, I think it can be easily missed. Spiritual bypassing, of course, is a very favorite expression these days. But I think there’s a lot to it.
RICK: Yeah. You know, this association for spiritual integrity that I helped found, I think you’re a member of it. And, yeah, and I’m thinking of Miranda McPherson, whom you probably know who’s on our advisory board, and was on our board of directors for a while. In any case, she’s been a spiritual teacher sensor, 20 years and decades. And even now, she, you know, systematically goes on retreats with other teachers, that has periodic therapy, and there’s nothing wrong with her. I mean, she’s Clear and Brilliant, but she just wants to make sure that, you know, everything is spotless, and that there aren’t any sort of hidden nooks and crannies that she’s unaware of she you know, and helps her take, take the role as teacher very, very seriously.
STEPHAN: That’s beautiful. And I do the same, I go back into therapy, from time to time, I’ve actually done almost as Ridwan school diamond approach, I found that very helpful, you know, I belong to have been a part of a group of colleagues, fellow teachers, some of them, some of them not. But that’s been meeting regularly for 25 years, discussing the issues that come up for us sharing our experiences. I feel that’s it. And I have a number of close friends, who are also teachers. So this to me is really very important, a feedback system that most teachers don’t have. So yes, all of the above taking time, clarifying, understanding, working with the shadow, having a peer group to check in with going into therapy, all of this.
RICK: Yeah. And I’m glad you bring that up. Because I mean, you know, that guy who didn’t start teaching until he was 80, and then taught until he was 120, or something, theoretically, if everybody did that, we wouldn’t have any spiritual teachers. So that’s an extreme example. And I think the times are such that we need spiritual teachers, if I didn’t feel that I wouldn’t be doing this show and interviewing people who I’m not presuming are the, at the pinnacle of possible spiritual development, but who are serving a valuable role, as long as they kind of keep their act together, then act with integrity? And I’ve had to take down about 30 interviews of people who were not acting with integrity out of six 600.
STEPHAN: Out of six, yeah, that’s quite a bit. That’s 5%. Well, you’re
RICK: good at math. In any case. So the times, who was it done, take not Han said, the next Buddha may be the Sangha. And, and it does seem that given the age of the internet, and just the way the world works these days, it’s good that we have this sort of, you know, proliferation of spirituality and spiritual teachers. But I think that the kinds of things we’re discussing here might be important safeguards, so that, you know, people can behave responsibly and can continue on their own journey, without the spiritual teacher ship going into their heads and tripping them up, you know, what to say of the effect they might have on their students?
STEPHAN: Right, exactly. Yeah, I think we do have a proliferation of teachers. I think people idealize the role of spiritual teacher. You know, it’s, I mean, I love it. It’s what I love to do in this lifetime. I feel very blessed to have the opportunity. But I think people become spiritual teachers for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they’re chosen by their teacher to be the successor. Sometimes they’re born into it like Krishna Modi was visionary was chosen but others So here tacos in the Tibetan tradition are born into it. And but others pursue it for questionable reasons perhaps, you know, I write in this piece I, I think you read on narcissism and spiritual teachers, narcissists, narcissists are drawn to being spiritual teachers, because you’re in front of the room, people give you special deference, they think very highly of you. They think you’re special, right? And students are drawn to charismatic, possibly narcissistic teachers because they can bask in the glow and feel special as well. So there can be this kind of back and forth a shared narcissism. And this is a potential pitfall, you know, something to be aware of.
RICK: Yeah, I think perhaps narcissism can be latent in a person. And then it gets enlivened by the adulation and attention they receive once they start teaching, as you know, a little gradually goes to their heads, so to speak.
STEPHAN: Absolutely. They buy their own PR Yeah.
RICK: And Pride goeth before a fall. Before we get too much farther, I want to read a question here that came in from Jamie and Canada, which I think relates kind of to what we’re saying, there seems to be a new revolution of Satsang teachers. And you mentioned that I just Shanti Francis’s seal that have made traditional Advaita Vedanta much more digestible in what is now called the direct path. However, do you think there is value in going back and studying traditional Advaita upon the Shah Shanker his works, which is more systematic.
STEPHAN: biomedia means if you feel drawn, why not share?
RICK: I? Well, the reason I thought that was relevant to our discussion so far, also, is that when I hear direct path, I sometimes get the impression that people might interpret it as meaning that boom, you can get directly enlightened and you’re done. And I think for most people, the path may be direct and progressive, like you mentioned, you had this years of progressive striving, and then you had a direct realization, and then you content have continued to progress since then. So I think one can sort of dip into Ultimate Reality directly and even at the very beginning of one’s practice. But then there’s also going to continually be a progression. And I think the value of the traditional thing, which Jamie mentions, is that these traditions, as you have mentioned, do emphasize the importance of all kinds of tools and, and ethical guidelines in order to enable you to progress safely over the long term.
STEPHAN: Absolutely, I think they built in guidelines. I remember interviewing SN Goenka for the Yoga Journal. And he talks about the three aspects of the path, according to Tera Vaada Buddhism, which are Sheila, Gianna and progeria, so she liked his ethics, number one. And what he said was, you really can’t meditate unless you’re acting ethically, because your mind is going to be too in too much turmoil to be able to sit quietly and hasn’t the mind settle, which I thought was really interesting. Sheila is the ground of the past. So it’s traditional past incorporate all these elements. And I think that’s, that’s beautiful.
RICK: And they’re not just older in terms of moralistic Fuddy duddies. I mean, they actually did this for a good reason, which was time tested,
STEPHAN: time tested and evolved over centuries into what it finally became, and yeah, absolutely. And in terms of the direct path, the difference really, there are several differences, it’s really important that these are important distinctions that I I really emphasize, when I teach the, the direct path is the main differences in the view. In other words, you can, like John Klein is to say you can use progressive as practices in the direct approach. You know, the main thing is the view you have, if you have a view that I’m practicing in order to get somewhere that I’m not, in order to improve myself and become a better human being in order to cultivate qualities that finally get me to a point where I can, etc, etc. That’s the progressive path. The direct approach is you’re doing practices in order to discover was always already been the case. But which is obscured from view. You can still use the very same practices, you know, you say, and, but the understanding is that it’s not somewhere out there. And in fact, it’s not about this one becoming more enlightened. It’s about just Discovering your inherent wakefulness, yeah. And what I found in the direct path approach is that after awakening is when the practice really when practice really becomes important, because once you’ve awakened, then it’s like, okay, now how to stabilize this, how to deepen this, how to clarify this, how to live this out or embody this. So in a certain way, waking up is really just the beginning of the path from the direct approach. In the direct approach, you know, my
RICK: own experience, after a very tumultuous childhood and teenage life, when I finally learned to meditate, my very first sitting was deep and profound. And I felt like I just dove right into the self, you know, capitalist. And I remember walking down Fifth Avenue afterwards in a rainstorm, just feeling like I’d been delivered. All these people standing under awning staring at me. But yeah, and most most of my meditation experiences since then have been somewhat along those lines, all the first one is quite contrasting. But still, you know, 53 years later there, you know, is this continual refinement and progression, which I expect will happen to the day I die? So if I understand this correctly, I think I’ve my own experience has been both direct and progressive. And it’s worked well.
STEPHAN: Absolutely. Yes. i And again, like you said, it’s a lifelong process. I think it’s awakening. It’s not it’s the process of awakening goes throughout a lifetime. I’m still waking up to different dimensions of reality I hadn’t even seen so clearly before. So I feel incredibly grateful to be on this journey. But I never could possibly ever say that it’s done, right.
RICK: Yeah, I don’t want to speculate too much. But I sometimes wonder whether it’s ever done for anybody, you know, even if you know what, Ramana Maharshi, wherever he is now is somehow, you know, moving along. In fact, St. Teresa of Avila said, it appears that God Himself is on the journey. Before we leave Jamie’s question, he had one final one. And forgive me, Jamie, if you are a woman, but I just assume not sure. She She just he or she wants to know what is your all time favorite non duality book.
STEPHAN: I can’t really put my finger on one one, which is not very well known. And which comes from a very absolute perspective is perfectly brilliant film by David Carr. You know, I think that’s the clearest articulation of the absolute view. So and someone who’s vehemently refused to be a teacher, so I know, I bow to
RICK: him. He refused to be interviewed. I think I invited him early on after I started that, yeah,
STEPHAN: I’m sure. I’m sure. And the book, in fact, is unobtainable. Now. So recommending that book is probably a waste of
RICK: time, because you can’t get any you might find a used copy on Amazon or something. Exact Mazal ask another question here. Since we’re in a little bit of a question hiatus, and then we’ll get back to our outline. But um, this is from Barbara and Poland. She says, after my awakening, I found a teacher and attended regular satsangs with Francis Lucille and yoga with Billy Doyle. I am curious about relationships. After an awakening sexual energy has been transformed into spiritual seeking. Now, two years later, I have found there is a need to be in a relationship again, I’m curious whether this desire comes from separate self.
STEPHAN: I would say only you can know that, you know, I don’t think per se. The movement to be in relationship necessarily comes from a sense of being a separate self. You know, are you looking for something outside yourself to complete yourself? Then that would be a red flag? Yeah. Are you are you looking for companionship on the on the path and someone to share the beauty of life with and the love that you are with? That’s a different story, right? So I would say no, check out your your deeper motives.
RICK: A nice answer. Okay, so moving along. We perhaps there’s a bit more we can say about the role of the teacher on the spiritual path, you outline different kinds of teachers like pundit, mentor, friend, Master Guru, and, and also how the role of teachers varies somewhat among different traditions Zen Buddhism Vipassana Kashmir, Shaivism Vedanta then I guess the the key question is, do We still need teachers. Sometimes people say we don’t be your own guru. You don’t you don’t need a teacher and so on. So what do you think about all that? Sure, sure,
STEPHAN: or the relationship with a so the True Guru ultimately is inside you. Only you can realize the truth for yourself, right? Only you can know what’s best for you on the path, right? But at the same time, our relationship with the teacher can ignite the fire of truth and you can catalyze your own awakening, and can help guide you on the path. So is it necessary? I’ve met a number of people, again, who woke up without a teacher, but they came to find a teacher, when they had difficulty integrating and living from their awakening subsequently, so and they’re even people like Ramana Maharshi, for example, who never had a teacher except Shiva, gross, or natural and managed quite well on his own. But those are the rare
RICK: except Yeah, armas. Another example, never really had a teacher but
STEPHAN: okay, it’s rare. Yeah. So yeah, it’s rare. I would say it’s rare.
RICK: It’s like anything. I mean, you know, I don’t know if there are any world class physicists who didn’t study in a university under, you know, expert physicists, it’s theoretically possible to get all the books and just do it. But if you’re making it more difficult for yourself, probably if that if you try to do that,
STEPHAN: yeah, yeah. So just keep your eyes open. And check out a teacher thoroughly before you start studying with him or her. And that will hold you in good stead.
RICK: I wasn’t at the Dalai Lama, who said spend a couple of years kind of checking out a teacher before you make a commitment.
STEPHAN: That’s fine. He said, Yeah.
RICK: And then on the flip side of that, you know, you left the teacher because you felt like something was wrong. And there might be a lot of people who are in relationships with teacher, teachers, who kind of feel on some level, like something is wrong, but they just don’t cut the cord. And, you know, that can go incrementally way down the rabbit hole, you know, they have a thing like Jonestown or something, to take an extreme example. So, you know, perhaps we could consider that, you know, not only checking out a potential teacher, but how to recognize the red flags. And, you know, and take off I mean, leave if, if, if things seem to be going wrong.
STEPHAN: Exactly. I think that’s a major issue. I think, once you’re involved with a teacher is very hard to see their shortcomings. And to see the danger signs, the red flags, I mean, a classic example. Really, I think it’s okay to name names, since this is now very well known as Sogyal Rinpoche, who are Tibetan teacher, who, you know, I knew about sodales transgressions. 25 years ago, both as editor of Yoga Journal and study with Sylvia Shea for several years, went to his retreats. This is at a time when he was not so well known. And I began to notice things that troubled me first, his anger towards students seemed inappropriate, and the way he treated women, interestingly enough, and I actually wrote him a letter about it, expressing my concerns, and never got an answer back. And at that point, I stopped after two years of studying with him, then subsequently, it came out in the 90s. This is in the 80s, and the 90s. It came out that heat well been sexually abusing women. That was in the 90s, just in the last three or four years, he was finally outed, fully, it took him that long, and his behavior was, you know, perhaps the most outrageous of any that I’ve ever read about. There’s even a book called Sex and violence in Tibetan Buddhism about Sagar Rinpoche. And it took that long for the students who had settled within so devotedly, for so long to be willing to say anything negative in public about the teacher, there is so much reluctance to do it so much hesitancy, so much fear. And there are various reasons for that. Do you think that’s our identity?
RICK: Do you think that’s because they had so much invested in him and they would have to admit that they had wasted a decade or, or whatever?
STEPHAN: Yeah, I think that’s a big part of it. And I think, as you said, down the rabbit hole, I think what happens is little by little, you know, it’s like the classic story of the frog and in water and you you turn up the temperature, the temperature got turned up gradually, gradually, gradually over time. They were becoming accustomed to accepting more and more outrageous behavior in the name of enlightenment or the tradition. And there’s also in the Tibetan tradition there. You know, the Samaya vows the the vows that one takes in relationship to a teacher, consider sacrosanct, there’s the threat of going to some vadra. Hell, if you don’t, if you if you violate those vows, and people take that stuff seriously, in Tibetan Buddhists, unfortunately. So there’s a lot of dogma associated
RICK: with that. Yeah, yeah, the point you just made reminds me of contemporary phenomenon with, you know, Q anon and various conspiracy theories, which is that the, the mind is very impressionable, you know, and YouTube and Facebook know this, that you may have seen that documentary that what is it called the social dilemma, where, you know, you put your attention on something, and it sort of seeps in a little bit, and then they give you something a little stronger, and then that seeps in. And you don’t even realize that it’s seeping in. But your mind is kind of being colored by this information, and you become susceptible to greater to more and more, kind of improbable or outlandish ideas, and take them as real. And you know, and human psychology is such a, you can tell us more being a psychologist or psychotherapist, that you can’t just turn that around and snap out of it, you almost have to come out of it as incrementally as you went into it. What do you think about that?
STEPHAN: I think that’s true. And, you know, used to be called brainwashing we don’t use that word so much anymore. But you remember those D programmers that were? You don’t hear much about that anymore, either. But 2030 years ago, there were people who were hired as the programmers to get young people out of cults, right, this is probably 70s and 80s.
RICK: That that was to I mean, there were a lot of examples.
STEPHAN: That was, that was abusive, too. But that was an attempt to deprogram to take them out of those belief systems. So any belief system can become a kind of brainwashing, you know, we, we take a certain amount on faith from our teachers, you know, they’re pointing in a certain direction and saying, Look, if you do this, and this, this is what you will experience, trust me, and you can keep going. And I will give you my word that eventually, if you do this, and this, you will have certain experiences, you know, most probably, I can’t guarantee it, but this is the direction to go. And we trust that. But on the other hand, we can be fed all kinds of outlandish beliefs, in the name of so called Truth. That’s brainwashing. So where does the one end and the other begin? Again, this is the word in all of this. And all that we’re talking about today is discernment. Yes. That’s the word we need to develop discernment. The ability to discern truth from falsehood, and to know our own heart and and mind and know as appropriate, and right for us to trust that I had the good fortune of again of trusting that it was my zoomy Roshi with Sogyal Rinpoche. You know, again, I can’t make any claims to myself, like, I had no choice. That’s what I had to do it. You know, it’s just what I was being told from inside and I did it. So we need to learn to listen or trust what we’re already hearing.
RICK: You may remember Shanker his book, The crest jewel of discrimination, I think discrimination is somewhat synonymous with discernment. But similar, I’ve come to feel that that quality is really critical on the spiritual path. And without it, one can get sucked off into all kinds of cul de sacs, you know, and diversions without even knowing it happens all the time. I agree. I agree. Yeah. Which is why I kind of like the juxtaposition of science and spirituality because science brings certain qualities to the quest for knowledge, you know, such as the insistence upon empirical verification and falsification and, and all that, that spirituality could really use. And then spirituality, on the other hand, can bring some valuable tools to science because it explores realms of reality that science that scientists don’t even know exist.
STEPHAN: Absolutely. I totally agree. And, and, you know, this spiritual journey is a scientific one. It is this is about direct experience. I mean, it’s phenomenological in the sense that it’s our direct experience, you know, at that level, it’s not necessarily something that you can do experiments with your but you it has to be something you know, for yourself. Otherwise it’s hearsay, yeah, theory.
RICK: Well, you can kind of do experiments in a way I mean, let’s see There’s a physics experiment where someone says, okay, that we think there’s something called the Higgs boson. And then a whole bunch of people get together and they build the Large Hadron Collider, and they spend billions of dollars and tons of time and they eventually find the Higgs boson. So, you know, well, in spirituality, various teachers and scriptures say, you know, there are these in these in these possible attainments, and others have attained them. And for you, that’s hypothetical at a certain point, but then they say, Okay, well do this, this, this and this. And over time, you you too, will experience it, you know, so that’s kind of a scientific approach. Yeah. Okay. Um, what is Zen sickness?
STEPHAN: Ah, well, Zen sickness is to hang out in the absolute, and not give any credence to the relative to be intoxicated by your own awakening, as well and become insulated with your sense of the importance of what you’ve discovered. A kind of spiritual narcissism, you could say, yeah,
RICK: there’s a teacher recently that came to my attention, who was sort of messing around with the ladies. And when it finally came to light, he was sort of like, well, I’m just the witness, and God is the doer. And I have no, you know, authorship of my actions and that kind of stuff.
STEPHAN: Exactly. Yeah. And that’s again, mixing absolute and relative, right? You know, there’s no right and wrong and right is right and wrong is wrong.
RICK: What do you mean by splitting the archetype?
STEPHAN: Splitting the archetype. See, in Union psychology, an archetype has two poles, you know, so as soon as there’s an enlightened one, there’s an in darkened one. You see, as soon as you constellate, the enlightened one, then you’re This is according to Jungian psychology. I’m not necessarily saying that I agree with his point of view. But I think it’s a provocative one, and I think a helpful one. So as soon as you calculate the awakened, then there’s going to be the unawakened, the Enlightened the in darkened. So when a teacher takes himself to the specials to be enlightened, and the student to be in dark, and then it’s impossible for the student ever to become the other pole, the teacher has claimed the one pole of the archetype. And the student is relegated to the other pole of the archetype, and can never overcome that. That polarization that discrepancy. interest interesting, isn’t it. And this is one of the things that I was drawn to was John Klein, John Klein said true transmission happens when a teacher who does not take themselves to be a teacher meets a student who does not take themselves to be a student, in that meeting, to transmission can happen, same. So there’s no taking one cell to be awakened, no taken one cell to be in darkened. There’s simply a direct meeting. In that moment, there’s a potential for and transmission doesn’t mean anything moves from one place to another. It’s really more of the recognition within another person of what has always been the case that we share. Yeah. So this is one of the things that drew me to John Klein, he said, a teacher doesn’t have students, as soon as someone takes himself to be a teacher who has students, you know, my students, right, as soon as he has, as soon as they hear someone talking about my students. I mean, that may sound pretty benign. But I, my antenna go up, you know, you don’t have any students, you know, people come to you for guidance occasionally. That’s my experience. People come to Me for guidance. Occasionally, some people hang around for a while, some people, you know, come and go, I don’t consider those my students, you know, they’re just people. We’re all hanging out together. You see, as soon as I claim them as my students, then the whole that archetypes constellated, say, teacher student archetype.
RICK: I’m kind of thinking of a university as a comparison. I mean, if University said, Okay, none of you are ever going to graduate, or you could never possibly become professors yourselves because we are the professors. That wouldn’t be a very popular university. So I should think a teacher would rejoice if a student has a profound spiritual awakening. I’ve even heard of examples. I can’t even think of one right now where a student became the teacher’s teacher because he surpassed the two that teachers attainment who you remember anything like that?
STEPHAN: This happened regularly in Zen. Okay, sure. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I think that’s beautiful. And that shows, you know, a truly awakened person with the the appropriate humility to recognize again without as in sickness to recognize, yeah, this lesson Student No seems to be clearer than I am. You know, and in fact, it was the same Oman Zen Master, I hope it was Oman. My memory for the cons is not as good as it used to be. But when he went off on his journey after he attended his to his teachers grave at the age of 60, he said, even if it’s a seven year old girl, if she has something to teach me, I’ll study with her. And even if it’s an 80 year old Zen master, if I have something to teach him, I’ll teach him. That was his attitude. Yeah. You know, the distinctions don’t matter to him. So it’s that attitude. Yeah. Yeah, I learned from my students all the time, I must say, you know, and hopefully any teacher, you know, every teacher does, right. Yeah. Wow, I love the way this person says that that’s beautiful. Or I know, I really hadn’t understood that before. That’s amazing. You know?
RICK: Yeah, that’s really good. And like you said, humility. And, and humility doesn’t mean belittling oneself or, you know, considering oneself inferior, I think it just means, to my mind that it sort of means not being rigid, and being open, you know, to the possibility of, of learning or of anything, not insisting that things happen anywhere, any particular way, just sort of flowing.
STEPHAN: I agree. I agree.
RICK: Well, let’s talk about sex. I’m going through the outline of a book, you’re thinking of writing.
RICK: But you have a chapter called Sex in the Forbidden Zone. And since this is probably the biggest pitfall, or reason for spiritual teachers, falling, we probably ought to talk about it. You know, it’s funny, when Irene heard we’re going to be having this kind of discussion. She’s, oh, people are so sick of that topic. And, and yeah, you know, in a way, I think probably you and I are sick of it also. But until this kind of stuff starts happening, I think it needs to continue to be looked at, and not swept under a rug or some such thing. And yeah, anyway, let’s talk about that.
STEPHAN: Well, that’s, you know, that article I sent you. So I wrote this article on, called in the shadow of the Dharma, again, the word shadow that was assigned to me by tricycle magazine back in 2006. I wrote the article to their specifications, they liked the article, they paid for the article, then they decided not to run it. Because according to the editor, he felt that this had already been dealt with before. This was 2006. Right. So now, 15 years later, the same sort of stuff continues to happen within the Buddhist community within other spiritual communities. It hasn’t stopped happening, right. So the article is available on my website, in the blog section, if you want to read so long article 6000 word article, in which I talk particularly about this issue about sex and teachers, which I think is eternally relevant, because it seems like sex is endlessly beguiling and seductive. Right? And we’ll never stop being right. You’re at you and I are old, old dudes. And maybe we don’t feel the pull as much as we used to. But it’s amazing how strong it continues to be right. So, you know, there are different levels of misguided behavior, we could say. So interesting distinctions have been made. There’s a wonderful guidebook called, What is this book by a woman named Marie 14, who’s a United Church of Christ minister, who’s been very interested in this whole issue of transgressions by spiritual teacher? spiritual teachers, particularly our clergy? Yeah, clergy. I’m trying. I’m looking for the name of the book. Maybe I’ll find it. It’s probably down here. Yeah, here it is. It’s called nothing sacred. When sex invades the pastoral relationship. And the some of the distinction she makes are between Wanderers and predators. So a wonder, see, he’s talking about boundaries, right? There’s a boundary between a pastor or a minister, a spiritual teacher? I think those are different roles, of course, but they’re similar. And the student, right, the boundary is generally acknowledged that a teacher or a pastor doesn’t have sex with his or her parishioners, or students.
RICK: And unfortunately, we’re often talking about pedophilia here, because we’re talking about, you know, children that are that have been victimized in that in that in by clergy. Yeah, I mean, you know, that’s been a huge, huge scandal in recent years. Movie spotlight. Did you see that?
STEPHAN: Yes, yes, I did. Let’s put that aside. Because I totally agree that that happens. But let’s put it aside because that’s a whole nother issue. pedophilia is really a mental illness, I mean, of a certain sort. And usually people who are pedophiles were abused, sexually abused as children. But you know, that’s a whole nother category. But let’s just say we’re talking about to adults. Yeah. You know, whether it’s same sex or different sex. So there are these acknowledged boundaries, we all acknowledge those boundaries. You know, we could all say just common sense sickly. You just don’t do that. Yeah. So on the one hand, very fortunate would say, are those who lose the sense of the boundaries, they lose their boundaries, like a minister or a teacher, who in the relationship with the students starts falling in love starts being attracted, and feels that the other person is responding to their overtures. They’re not being aggressive. They’re just expressing some interest or affection, the person seems to be responding, of course, they may be completely misreading what’s happening. And men, of course, tend overwhelmingly to misread signals as being sexual, where a woman doesn’t mean them to be. There’s a lot of evidence for that. So the man takes them in that way, usually, it’s a man and then the woman may be acquiescence acquiesces, and then back and forth until next thing, you know, they’re in a sexual relationship, maybe even a romantic relationship. Okay? It wasn’t intentional, there was no intent on the part of either one, they just kind of fell into that. And sometimes it works out. Sometimes they end up getting married and live happily ever after. That does happen. So those are the wanderers. The other hand, on the extreme end of the other extreme of the spectrum, would be the predators. Those who are intending to have sex with their students are looking for appropriate students to have sex with vulnerable students that sex with are targeting them, or possibly even grooming them.
RICK: Sometimes they even have helpers who groom them, you know, kind of line them up.
STEPHAN: Like Richard Epstein, right, Jeff? Jeffrey Epstein and just laying Mac’s so that sort of thing. Sure. So. So, as you can see, these are different, you know, roles to play. They’re different approaches. The predators are obviously dangerous individuals, I would say. So he or she was obviously a predator. maezumi Roshi was a predator as well, certainly when he was drunk. And several people, certainly one in particular, in his lineage was a supreme predator, par excellence. And you will be you know, I don’t need to mention his name, but it’s common knowledge. This is not something he’s been confronted on this numerous times, and continued, has continued over the years to do the same thing over and over again. So these are people who tend to be narcissistic, sociopathic, psychopathic, and are not really empathic or not aware of the suffering they have caused. And somehow these are people some had drawn to being spiritual teachers. They’re the exception for sure. I think more of them tend to be wanderers. But again, caught in the Zen sickness. I’m someone special. If the rules don’t apply to me, ethics are not appropriate for someone of my understanding. I have the right to transgress that kind of attitude. Yeah.
RICK: Yeah. Robin Williams once said that, God gave man both a penis and a brain but unfortunately, not enough blood supply to run both at the same time.
STEPHAN: And put them in two very different very different places.
RICK: Yeah. And I think what happens though, in light of that, that joke is that, you know, sex and sexual attraction can be very hypnotic, I mean, it kind of clouds one’s judgment, you know. And if you feel like you’re you don’t realize you’re clouded. That’s, that’s the first thing that Maya does is that allude to the fact that you’re deluded. But then, like we were saying earlier about the incremental, you know, joining of a cult, you incrementally get more and more sort of occluded or diluted. And one thing leads to the next then, you know, in many cases, that becomes extreme. And it also is often associated with other foibles and misbehaviors. Like you’re saying, anger, drinking or other kinds of mistreatment of people.
STEPHAN: Exactly. There’s a some interesting work done by this guy named David Buss at the University of Texas. Sam Harris recently interviewed him about what’s called evolutionary psychology, and how our psychology of the particularly male female psychology evolved to perpetuate the species, you know, and one of the ways this, he talks about what he calls the dark triad of qualities, which will predispose one, like a man, for example, to act in abusive ways given man’s already predilection towards sowing a seed as widely as possible. And this dark triad is narcissism, sociopathy, or psychopathy, and what he calls Machiavellianism. Right, which are more or less different facets of the same thing, he calls it the dark triad. So when those qualities are joined with the male tendency of men in general, it becomes abusive. You know, men, in general aren’t abusive, necessarily, but these other qualities can cause it to become abusive. And I think it’s, it’s well researched. Yeah.
RICK: Yeah, it’s funny, you mentioned that the point of like, sowing one seed why there was a spirit spiritual teacher whose interview I took down years ago, but not about last summer, I heard a YouTube video he did, he was obviously somewhat inebriated. But he was going on about how adultery is perfectly fine, especially for men, because it’s hereditarily sort of appropriate are wired into us, and that anybody who disagrees with this, and has some kind of moral objection to it as an ignorant monkey, to use this phrase, and he was, obviously he was living out this principle in his own life and abusing literally hundreds of women.
STEPHAN: There you go. It’s,
RICK: and yet people still come around and be his students.
STEPHAN: And remember, when we say abuse, we don’t just mean abusing the body, we mean abusing, you know, the soul, abusing the being at every level, especially when you’re doing it in the spiritual, you know, in the spiritual dimension,
RICK: abusing their trust abusing. I mean, to me all the kind of the, the ardent search for God or realization is such a rare and precious thing, you know, when it finally dawns in the course of a person’s spiritual evolution, it’s such an important milestone, you know, and it’s initially it’s like a little tender sprout, you know, that you that has to be treated with the utmost care, maybe once you’ve been on the path for 40 years, you know, you can weather all kinds of storms and not be not be crushed. But you get you get the point. I’m getting out here. It’s just,
STEPHAN: I totally agree. I totally agree. Yeah. Yeah.
RICK: It’s interesting, when we were trying to formulate the code of ethics for the Association for spiritual integrity took a long time on this whole sex and relationship issue. Some people felt like a spiritual teacher, and a student should never form a relationship, you know, and, and I was kind of arguing in favor of, well, yeah, but maybe they really are men are would be really good together. And they just happen to meet because of the, you know, the teachers well known the student shows up, and maybe there are certain guidelines that could be adhered to to prevent capricious and abrupt, you know, situations, but that eventually could result in them being able to have the ship that they would both benefit from then I think Spirit Rock had some good guidelines on that, that we eventually kind of helped us excellent guidelines.
STEPHAN: Yeah. Yeah. They have excellent guidelines in the psychotherapy profession, certainly in California where I’m licensed. You know, the rule basically is if there is an attraction Of course, cannot be acted on. And if they want to simply act on it, they have to wait two years before acting
RICK: that spirit of psychotherapy, right? You’re saying?
STEPHAN: Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
RICK: Yeah, that’s a good you mentioned that because obviously a profession like that, or, you know, probably other areas of Physical Medicine and so on the there are organizations which regulate these things, and with these professions and which have guidelines like that, and you could actually lose your license for violating them.
STEPHAN: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And the thing, of course, is about the relationship between a therapist and a client, just like a teacher and a student is that? Well, there are many dimensions to it. But a client shows their vulnerability, and reveals aspects of themselves in absolute trust that the other person will not misuse them, we’re using them for their own personal gain, right. And then when a therapist turns around and then takes this vulnerability and abuses, it takes advantage of it for their own personal gain. That’s a again, a very deep betrayal. Yeah. Which is why you have to wait for several years. And I mean, the basic guideline is, if you need to do it, wait several years, but we don’t advise doing it.
RICK: Yeah, yeah. But several years might seem like a long time, but seems to me that if the relationship is really sincere, and genuine and deep, one will do that, you know, I mean, my wife and I met 11 or 12 years before we actually got married. And we were always thinking, Okay, I wanted to be a monk. And but I was always saying, Well, if I decide not to be a monk, I would like to be with you. But, you know, we kind of stuck to our guns for 11, she actually pretty much waited for me. And she was also, you know, on a similar program. And but, you know, we weren’t in a big rush, because we had something that we felt we needed to do that was kind of a higher calling. And or, at least at the time, I thought it was a higher calling, but something that was important that had spiritual significance to us.
STEPHAN: Yeah, exactly. You have to people really are drawn in that way. And it’s amazing. I can’t tell you, I know, probably three or four people, you know, in my own circle, a big circle of therapists who have stuck with their students over there in their clients or clients who suffer their therapists, or, I mean, it’s amazing how often it happens. So
RICK: it didn’t it didn’t turn out. Well. You mean?
STEPHAN: No, it never turns out, right. No, it never turns out well, I can say pretty much without most confidence that, you know, it almost never, maybe I could shouldn’t say never, but almost never turns out. Well,
RICK: yeah. Now, I think in the case of Adi Shanti, and Mukti that she has student events first before they formerly No, okay.
STEPHAN: No. They were. They were, you know, just boyfriend girlfriend. It started. Yeah. But she came from a very spiritual household. You know, her parents were SRF. She was raised in Sri. She was actually Irish Catholic family that her parents discovered that Seraph when she was a certain age Yogananda. He was Yogananda. Yeah. So she was groomed in that. And so, you know, very obviously attuned to what Andrea was, was teaching. So
RICK: yeah, I think I remember her saying that some friends said, Hey, you should meet this Stephen gray guy, because he’s the only other person I know that meditates like you do.
STEPHAN: So there you go. It was kind of like
RICK: okay. Is there anything else we want to say on this topic?
STEPHAN: No, I think as you said, it’s been written about quite a bit. Yeah. There was yeah, there’s some good books about it sex in the Forbidden Zone, although that’s also not available any longer. That was a Peter rudders book and then power in the helping professions, the union book by Adolf googan, Boo Craig, which is also very good. So these are good ones.
RICK: If any questions have come in about this as we’re speaking, oh, well, I’ll bring them up in a bit because I read in the other room, and she’ll be forwarding them to me, but we’ll move on to a new topic now. But we’ll come back to this if any questions have come up. Yeah. So, you know, Crazy Wisdom. You know, Timothy Conway, I think you know, Timothy eautiful. guy, he sent me an interesting little clip on Crazy Wisdom. He said, it may be argued by some ill behaving teachers that the abusive looking behavior they enact toward students is part of the venerable Crazy Wisdom tradition going back to illustrious spiritual adaptations. Rigorous historical scholarship has shown this to have been a literary invention by later writers 100 to 300 years after the periods in which the supposedly early Crazy Wisdom adaptations In China, stories of Crazy Wisdom behaviors were invented and elaborated as a literary device to make certain Tang Dynasty chan teachers look more interesting and authoritative after the literary invention of the Crazy Wisdom trope, later generations witnessed numerous spiritual teachers behaving abusively shouting at students kicking, beating, humiliating them, otherwise, quote, testing them in extreme ways. Today we know that such bad boy behavior is imitating the literary trope or scathingly critiqued by numerous esteemed spiritual masters as an unfortunate inauthentic development, an aberrant style of spiritual instruction.
STEPHAN: Interesting perspective, Timothy is very careful, I think, in his scholarship, so he may very well be right. There are of course, though, in the Tibetan tradition, venerated examples of Crazy Wisdom teeth is
RICK: nothing Marpa and
STEPHAN: Milarepa Drukpa, commonly, the famous, you know, drunken, sexual saint of the 1400s, I believe, who was known for hanging out with prostitutes and drinking and enlightening women with his sexual behavior. You know, he’s revered in his Tibetan tradition and actually existed. And then there’s AQ Zen master in Japan, very similar, hang out with prostitutes. Although he had a close girlfriend, partner towards the end of his life for like, 30 years, but in his early life, both of whom were trying to show that sex is not profane that sex can be included on the spiritual path that you don’t have to be a renunciant monk. But I think, you know, whether Timothy is accurate or not, certainly, there have always been teachers who are provocative with their students, and use provocative behavior to, to try to awaken their their students. And I think that has a place. But the primary mark of true Crazy Wisdom, as opposed to abusive behavior is that the sole intention and motive behind it is the benefit of the student. As long as there is any benefit coming to this teacher, this is not crazy wisdom. So any so called Crazy Wisdom, where, you know, teachers acting abusively toward the student, or if it’s perceived as abusive by the student, then this is not crazy wisdom, behavior, city, and also another mark of to Crazy Wisdom behavior. And again, Trungpa Rinpoche. And, you know, we won’t talk about Trungpa Rinpoche because I had a pretty close relationship with Trent programmed to say, so I’m one of those people who has a more provocative view of him. It’s it’s too complicated, but let’s just say that Trungpa Rinpoche is from a lineage of Crazy Wisdom teachers, that goes back generations of incarnations, right, which is acknowledged within the tradition. So again, was his behavior justified was a true Crazy Wisdom. Was he an alcoholic? Certainly, he was an alcoholic, there’s no question about it in his 40s he died in his 40s. So he pickled his liver, you know, and I watched him drink, you know, vodka as if it was water, you know? So, or sight, the psyche, as well as if it was what I pour it. Exactly. So you know, I believe so. Yeah. So. So, you know, I was there. I saw it. On the other hand, was he a compassionate being one of the most compassionate people I think ever came into contact with. So but was his was his behavior, true, Crazy Wisdom? I can’t really say. But another mark of true Crazy Wisdom is that if a person is caught doing it, let’s say you’re doing something illegal, something and someone arrests you for doing it, you know, an example of Crazy Wisdom. You don’t protest and say, This was crazy wisdom. You go and you you succumb to the punishment involved. You take the you take the punishment, you say, you don’t profess to be a Crazy Wisdom teacher, you know, you take the karma involved. And most and most so called Crazy Wisdom, teachers will say no, what I wasn’t doing.
RICK: Yeah. So probably not too many judges who would accept that in a court of law?
STEPHAN: No, I don’t think so. In other words, we accept the rules of contemporary of conventional society, you know, even though we’re acting in Yeah, unconventional ways.
RICK: And even if these unconventional ways are not illegal, you know, I mean, They’re not necessarily ethical or right. And, and the danger, I think of Crazy Wisdom is it can become an alibi that anybody can use to do anything. And that’s, that’s what you hear most often is, oh, I’m just a crazy wisdom teacher, you know, it’s just, it’s a free pass to just act like a jerk.
STEPHAN: I agree. I agree. I don’t think there are any legitimate Crazy Wisdom teachers, you know, currently operating. I mean, maybe there are, but you know, I’m not sure how we would know whether they were legitimate or not. Yeah, you know, I think what Timothy says is, by and large, it’s trumped up the whole notion of Crazy Wisdom has been magnified edible proportion to what actually did
RICK: occur. Yeah, it makes for entertaining stories.
STEPHAN: That yeah, I would say, that’s accurate. But you know, you still have those crazy, sad Jews who come out and start, you know, hitting their students. And this, suddenly they’re, you know, galvanized by it. And so it seems to happen sometimes. Yeah, right. Mark, I guess Marpa was like that, right?
RICK: I’ve been around. Yeah. Milarepa, the teacher Mila rape, told Karen down that house and rebuilding it and stuff. That’s right. I mean, I’ve been with a couple of teachers who were who could, you know, be as conventional as they needed to be, you know, meeting at the UN or, you know, with a president or something like that. But who could also act? Very Not, not, I’m trying to find the right word, who would really blow your mind by their ability to sort of think outside the box and shift gears abruptly. You know, like, I’ll just tell you a story. I was with marshy, Mahesh Yogi for a long time. And one time, there were several plane loads of teachers over the Atlantic people coming to Europe to be on courses. And they were still negotiating with the hotels, about, you know, where people were going to stay. And he was kind of, you know, through intermediaries, you know, Negotiating the prices of hotels, and it still wasn’t someone said, marshy, these people gonna land pretty soon, where are we going to put them? He said, well just put them on buses and tell him to start driving south. And we’ll let them know about the hotels. And so that mean, well, there was a low of that conversation, and it was like, maybe one in the morning and he said, Let’s start a university. So the rest of the night was spent planning a new university Marcia, European research university, designing posters and all this stuff, you know, and so there was this kind of like, what it’s like, and he was often like that, and I’ve been with arm a lot. He’s often like that, but it’s, it’s not abusive. It’s more like so unconventionally, outside the box, that it kind of really makes you flexible, you know?
STEPHAN: That’s right. Yeah. Yeah, that’s
RICK: okay. So, um, that’s enough for Crazy Wisdom. Unless you want to say more about it.
STEPHAN: No, no, I think that’s I think that’s fine. Yeah. By and large. Yeah. as we as we said earlier, I think ethics has an appropriate place. Yeah. No, right. No, right or wrong. Right is right, wrong is wrong. Keep repeating repeating. Yeah,
RICK: um, do we want to say anything more about narcissism, you have a chapter titled called the special problem of narcissism and sociopathy.
STEPHAN: Right, as I say, you know, narcissism as David Buss also mentions, you know, those qualities of narcissism, the exaggerated self, the sense of self importance, right. So, this is the four E’s sometimes called right, exaggerated self sense of self importance. So I, I at the Zen Center, which,
RICK: by the way, exaggeration, empathy, entitlement and exploitation, since you mentioned the 40s, exaggerated
STEPHAN: sense of self importance, a lack of empathy, a sense of entitlement, again, these are qualities that you can see being, you know, claimed by spiritual teachers, and then exploitation, right. So when I was with my Zuni Roshi, and some of his disciples, I saw what I would consider to be narcissistic behavior. And in fact, when I left, I mean, now narcissism has become a topic of great interest over the last 10 years, it was even a conference one of these teleconferences on narcissism, which I attended, very interesting. But even back then, 40 years ago, I was still thinking God, there’s something really narcissistic. In fact, I remember talking to Roshi after I’d left and I came back to visit with him. I did that a couple of times. After I left the Zen Center, I came back and we hung out together, which is interesting because I got to To see him out of his role as teacher, we were just hanging out, I wasn’t a student anymore. And I was just watching. And he was he was really upset that the Dalai Lama was getting so much attention. Because he thought, you know, who’s that? Who’s the Dalai Lama? You know, he said, you know, our, what we’re doing is so much more important. And I thought, where’s this guy coming from? I mean, and, and he was telling me, we would talk, and he never asked me how I was doing. You know, I spent two hours with them. He never asked me about my life, he was always talking about the next thing that the Zen Center was going to be doing. And the next project all about him his glorious, it was all about him. And you know, and I thought there’s something you know, he’s not teaching anymore. This is not in the guise of teaching that you know that I’m not important. There’s something off about Yeah. And I started realizing this is narcissism. And then it was happening to his students. Were also narcissism, narcissist. So there’s something this strange fit between narcissists and spiritual teachers. I don’t know what it is, but they already think they’re special. And so it’s very easy for them to think that they’re special enough to become a spiritual teacher. Yeah, I’m special. I’m enlightened. That’s how special I am. There’s some weird kind of fit there. Yeah. And they’re drawn to being spiritual teachers. You know, he talks about everyone wanting to, you know, become a spiritual teacher is like, you know, first of all to understand, we’re all narcissistic. As long as there’s an ego, we’re narcissistic. We think we’re the center of the universe. That’s narcissism. So everyone with an ego is narcissistic. Is this the question of degree? How narcissistic? You know,
RICK: is that all joke? You know, me, me, me, me. Okay, enough about me? What do you think about me? But, but actually, I bet you everyone listening to this can relate to this in a way because think about how many times you you’re having a conversation with somebody, and you’re listening, and you’re asking them questions, and they’re telling you things, and then you try to balance out the conversation a little bit and say some things from your side. And they space out, they lose attention. They say, Okay, I gotta go. You know, it’s like, there’s so many people like that they have these one sided conversations with.
STEPHAN: So I
RICK: think maybe it’s common.
STEPHAN: Yeah. Whereas if you’re really, if you’re really open and awake, you know, again, you’re just as interested in what the other person has to say is what you have to say. I mean, there’s no prioritizing what you have to say. It’s like that. It’s just like a story. Anyway, I like your story better. It’s more interesting. I’ve heard my Yeah, plenty of
RICK: opportunity to learn something new.
STEPHAN: Right, right. Right. But you know, so again, we are all narcissistic. And so it is a matter of degree, but I think there’s a, an unusually strong fit between some of these qualities. And so when you get a narcissist, who becomes a spiritual teacher, they can do these things to their students, and not feel empathy. In fact, even oneness can be used, can be can disguise empathy. You know, we’re all one. So what I do to you doesn’t really matter. Because, you know, you’re just me. Yeah. Where does Where does oneness begin end and Solex ism began, I think
RICK: if a person is saying something like that, they’re not experiencing the kind of oneness that we would really aspire, Oh, of course, they’re not, not in the eye and My Father are one category,
STEPHAN: of course, is misunderstood. Yeah, of course,
RICK: it’s a lot of times these things, you see people using an intellectual concept of a thing and mistaking it for the actual experience of oneness, or, or whatever, and then the behavior comes out in a kind of warped way you describe? Because it’s not genuine.
STEPHAN: Right? Right.
RICK: Okay, you have a topic here, once you awaken, do you bypass or embody? What do you mean by let’s, let’s go well on that for a bit.
STEPHAN: Well, and you know, you’ve awakened to the truth of your being, you know, that you’re not this separate self that you’ve taken yourself to be with all the story and the history and the beliefs and the hang ups and you know, all of that you know, that you are, again, boundless awareness consciousness itself here, you know, that has been recognized. So, do you hang out there and avoid the human realm? Bypass the issues that are presented in being a human in the world? You know, again, the Zen sickness, do you hang out, you know, in the monastery or on your cushion? And we’ve met people like that we all admit, you know, who me I don’t get angry? I’m not, you know, It never never affects me. And relationships are to be avoided because they stir up unresolved issues. Yeah. That’s one way to deal with it. You hang out in that more ethereal realm in the absolute? Or do we venture forth, which takes more courage, and a willingness to be humbled again, again and again and again, into the realm of human relationship, you know, have a partner have close friends, and learn from those experiences? Yeah, that’s embodiment. Living it moment after moment, so that it descends into, you know, Raja is fond of talking about the different chakras it goes, it’s the sense that the heart chakra into the root chakra, root chakra is basically about trust, basic trust in the world. Heart Chakra is about love and connectedness to be allow it to embody in those ways, or do we just hang out? Disembodied awakeness? And bypass? Do you think we have a choice?
RICK: Yeah. On the point of choice, do you think that the evolutionary power of life being what it is a person would be allowed to hang out indefinitely in that state? Or do you think that eventually something is going to kick them out of it some external event is going to be is going to force them to snap out of it and deal with it? Or where do you think that a person could spend an entire lifetime hanging out without really embodying? Well,
STEPHAN: it depends, I mean, I guess some people, you know, have enough, maybe enough money, or they live simply, and they can just live a more monastic lifestyle, solitary lifestyle, and
RICK: maybe, for some people, you know,
STEPHAN: maybe appropriate. Yeah. And again, this is not to say that one is better than the other. I, you know, I would definitely preference, embodiment. But maybe in this lifetime, that just doesn’t happen. Maybe you’re not ready. Yeah, you know, if there’s been severe trauma, you’ve had a really, really difficult, unhappy childhood or past lives. And, you know, I’m agnostic on past lives. But if you’ve, in fact had, you know, very difficult time and Lifetime’s this lifetime, maybe you just want to hang out in the absolute and drink deep of the nectar of enlightenment of this self, then by all means, you know, that may be appropriate for some people is true, is
RICK: anyone accuse Shanker or Ramadan or something like that of bypassing? Just because they were amongst, but actually, you know, they were very engaged with the world, running around
STEPHAN: ROM in original papers, ah, it was very close to his mother, you know, all the all those things, and very close to he was very involved in the running of the ashram. He was constantly talking to people. He was very involved in that way. Sure. He didn’t have a wife. Of course, he didn’t have, you know, that sort of more involved relationship. And Shanker
RICK: ran all over India, setting up centers and debating people and writing books and all that stuff. So, yeah.
STEPHAN: Yeah, there’s certainly a place for now. Yeah.
RICK: Let’s talk about how students give their power away. A bunch of points on that. But um, why don’t you just start riffing on it? Unless you want me to read that last point,
STEPHAN: like, no, no, no, I’ll read. I’ll riff on it. But, you know, it’s very tempting. I mean, let’s face it, you know, we’re struggling, we’re suffering, we meet someone who claims to have the answer to our problems, you know, to offer us the solution to our suffering, right? And it’s so tempting to want to believe them, and give our power away and say, you show me the way please, I’m in a darkened soul, like we talked about before. I don’t know what to do. You tell me what to do. You know, and it’s very, it’s very seductive. And it can be very reassuring to have someone you consider to be an enlightened sage, guiding your life in every turn. Right. But as we know, there are pitfalls to that. And that’s what we’re talking about, you know, ultimately, of course, you have to take power back. You have to take responsibility for your own life. But you know, there’s that sense of a good father, you know, many people are looking for a good father. You know, they’ve people’s problem. Relationships with her fathers are, unfortunately and often problematic. They needed a teacher who’s a good father or a good mother. And you know that there’s the potential there for healing, having a healing relationship with a good father, or a good mother, where their relationship with their actual father and mother was not. That’s another, you know, draw. And the other, you know, coming back to the narcissistic element is that we feel special when we’re the student of someone who believes they’re special. Right? We bask in the glow of their special Yes, you know,
RICK: my teacher is the bestest. And he, and you know, he must be because I’m with him.
STEPHAN: There you go. And vice versa, I must be the best student because with a teacher like this, you know, and then it also, you know, then, you know, let them be responsible for my life, I don’t need to I can remain a child, I don’t need to make decisions that my teacher do it for me, that’s very appealing to some people,
RICK: you know, what you just said about a student saying, I don’t know what to do, please tell me what to do. It reminds me of the Gita actually, in which our June is set just that. He said, I’m stuck. I don’t know what to do, please tell me. And then they have Arjuna and Krishna have this big long conversation. And then at the end of the book, Krishna says, Okay, well, I’ve given you all this knowledge now decide what to do.
STEPHAN: Right. Yeah, exactly. And that’s what I think a teacher’s role is, ultimately, and you know, I certainly do this is, you know, don’t leave anything I say, find out for yourself, you know, don’t take my word for it. You’re the expert in your life, you’re the expert in your path. You know, if what I say is helpful for you, great. If not, forget it. Yeah, please.
RICK: You’re actually paraphrasing the Buddha there, you remember that quote, that? He says, pretty much work out
STEPHAN: your own salvation, with diligence, be a light unto yourself, workout, your own salvation, with diligence, your own awakening your own freedom, with diligence. And he
RICK: also said, don’t believe something just because somebody said it, even if I said it, he said, you know, think it out for yourself, you know?
STEPHAN: Absolutely. And that’s why so many of us are drawn to Buddhism and similar paths, because it is experiential, and it’s about being your own authority. Based traditionally, at least theoretically,
RICK: yeah, it’s, it’s a subtle thing, in a way, because there is a certain element of surrender that’s involved in a student teacher relationship, in any context, spiritual or even academic. I mean, in an academic session, when either context, an unhealthy situation, the student is encouraged to question and, you know, wait, I don’t get this, you know, please tell me explain. No, that doesn’t sound right to me, you know, Could it really be that you can go on and on like that, and a good teacher won’t be offended by that, though, take it as an opportunity for bringing out more knowledge. But
STEPHAN: exactly, that kind of that kind of lively dialogue? Yeah, is what I think really is should happen between teachers and students, not the teacher, you know, transmitting from on high this wisdom, that then becomes the the light that the student follows, but more than it’s a back and forth. And the student, as you put it before, does the experiments, you know, does those scientific experiments to discover with whether this actually is true in their own experience. And of course, they may not discover that immediately. And so then they trust the teachers guidance to keep going, even though they’re not getting there yet. They haven’t had the experience yet. But eventually, it needs to be something that they’ve realized for themselves, and the teacher is guiding them along the path. You know, I love that famous quote, that Jack Kornfield attributed to this teacher, Arjun Shah, you know, John Shaw says, you know, I’m not really teaching you anything, you know, he said, I watched students go down the path, and I say, Well, you know, just go a little left, you know, just go a little right. You know, that’s my job. Yeah.
RICK: And, and it’s not like, you have to sort of work with a teacher for years and years and years and years before experiencing anything. It’s like, the confirmation is there at every step of the way. You know, it’s like, your teacher says, practice this and you have an experience. Okay, that works. Now. What? Okay, well, then do this and oh, yeah, more experience. So that’s my experience anyway, that there was verification from day one, and then continual steps of knowledge and experience growing.
STEPHAN: Yeah, that’s great. I mean, some people don’t To get that, you know, that verification from day one, some people, you know, I was always the most, I always say I was the toughest nut to crack down. So I wasn’t I wasn’t that student I wasn’t, I was the other one, I was about to, you know, Suzuki Roshi talks about the horses and the whips, you know, and there’s the horse that moves when it sees the shadow of the whip. And then it’s the one that moves and feels the whip into his flesh. And then there’s the fourth horse that doesn’t move until it feels the whip hit and hit the bone. And even then, you know, and that was like me, you know, like, I was really the difficult students. So I, you know, so I needed the advice I’m giving today, you know, even if you don’t get it right away, trust the teacher, just keep going, you know?
RICK: Yeah, that also has, also sort of depends on the, the path or technique one is doing, some of them take a while to, you know, really show results and others more immediate. There’s a, there’s a little sub point here, which might be useful the limitations of being a dilettante?
STEPHAN: Yeah, I mean, my experience was that when I became a Zen student, I just practice Zen. I studied Zen, I need to do anything else. That was my life, you know. So I’m just saying what’s true for me, I’m not saying what’s right for anyone else, but, and then I left then, and then I, you know, then I played around, and a few other things that Amazon fine. When I mentioned one time, I never heard Advaita Vedanta never heard of Ramana, Maharshi, Nisargadatta, Maharaj, I had no idea what it was, all I knew was, this guy’s got what I want. And I’m going to practice with him until I get it too. And I didn’t read anything else. And I was, I just read and listened to John Klein, you know, for 10 years. And then when that was done, I met Joe Shanti. And I spent a couple of years with him kind of finishing things up. And that was it, you know, and then I started reading about, you know, and then I started reading about other things, and I’ve read since then it’s enrich me, but I found these, that staying really on, on path on focus, and just keeping it simple. Because what I find with students again, and again, and again, the most pervasive difficulty is that they’ve read so many books, you and I started practicing, there were no books, you know, even if I had a book on Zen was really difficult, you know, anything. Now there are millions of books and YouTube videos and thought songs and, and so they imbibe all this, these words, you know, all this jargon, and that, and they’re full of it. And it’s, you know, and then it’s completely confusing. And so I say, throw it all away, you know, stop reading, and start from scratch, you know, and that, and that’s the problem with being a dilettante is you get all these different, they’re all you know, they may all be different views of the same moon, you know, the same truth, but they’re different views, and they’re coming out from different perspectives. It’s really helpful to have the one over and over and over again. On the other hand, if that one isn’t working for you, at some point, try something else, you know, so I, I don’t want to be rigid about this. But there’s something about sticking with one thing. Until you find until you get the the essence of it.
RICK: Yeah, I’m gonna lose all my backcap viewers if they take you too seriously here. Somebody?
STEPHAN: The ultimate fork is for spiritual teachers. I love that you say awakening? No, I think that’s great. Yeah. Instead of awakened, I think as
RICK: we awaken, but we changed it.
STEPHAN: I know. Yeah, I think it’s good.
RICK: And, you know, in my own case, I had a very regular practice that I stuck to, like glue. But, you know, I felt comfortable reading Carlos Castaneda, or Yogananda or, you know, various other things that came my way. And they were, they’re fascinating. But it’s not like I was seeking for a teaching, and therefore, I think I’ll try a little of this, and then we’ll try a little of that, you know, there, there was a there was a kind of
STEPHAN: true, I read Carlos Castaneda while I was practicing Zen, that is true. And I read Shogun Trungpa while those writings and found, you know, particularly trying to be extremely helpful. In fact, Trungpa was the first one of the first teachers I ever met. When I started practicing Zen. This guy comes in, you know, I’m at the Zen Center in New York City on the east 67th Street. I’ve just started practicing Zen. This guy comes in in a suit and tie. I’m used to all these people in their robes, that the Roshi barely speaks English. This guy comes in he speaks perfect English with an English accent. He limps in in a suit and tie. He sits down. He is the most the clearest Dharma talk I’ve ever heard. I mean, it was like nothing I’d ever heard in Zen. And then I thought, Who is this guy? You know? This is a 1970 and even begun in the United States. And so, you know, I started reading his books, you know, and it’s, he was amazing. So you know, we can talk about Trungpa and Crazy Wisdom, but some of his books are incredible pioneering texts of American Buddhists. Yeah.
RICK: People say that about Adi Da to I haven’t read his books, but listening and so people say we’re great method of decisions. Yeah. It’s funny. I went to that Zen Center on a 67th street in the fall of 1968. And I was thinking of joining us.
STEPHAN: He might have been there. Where’d you? Where’d you go to school? Where’d you go to school?
RICK: Well, I lived in Connecticut. And I was going, Yeah, I grew up there. I was going to college at the University of Bridgeport, or maybe at that time, it was like it was normal Community College first at that point. But anyway, I was joining a Zen Center. And I, I wrote to this place up in Rochester, and they said, Well, first you have to visit a local Roshi and do that for six months and get his recommendation. So I went to check this guy out. But then I ended up getting into diving more deeply into Tm and sticking with that becoming a teacher. I remember that experience. Yeah, we did. You might have been there that night. Yeah. Alright, anyway. The True Guru is inside you. You touched upon that point. But is there anything more? We want to say about that? And have any questions come in? No, no questions? Okay. You know, I hear people say that, and sometimes they say that as a way of saying, I don’t need a teacher, but I think there’s a way that you can interpret that in even in the context of working with a teacher.
STEPHAN: That’s right, you know, like we were talking about earlier, ultimately, you’re your own teacher, I mean, simply put, practically speaking, everything that you’re being taught, is being filtered through you. If it doesn’t resonate for you, then you’re not gonna it’s not going to work for you is that, you know, eventually you’re gonna have to throw it out. So ultimately, only you know, what’s right for you. So in that sense, just simply practically speaking, it’s only going to work for you, if you are discerning, as we talked about before. And so ultimately, the True Guru is inside you. Are there other gurus, other teachers who can help that Guru find his or her own way? Right? Yeah, absolutely. But only in the depths of your own heart. You know, can you know what’s what’s true for you? And that can be schooled and enriched by various teachers and various teachings. But ultimately, it comes back to here, you know, and of course, what do we awaken, awaken to our very own true self, our very own inherently awake? True Nature, right? Our natural state, it’s here, it’s not out there.
RICK: Yeah. For some reason, that statement reminds me a little bit of Christ’s Parable of the Sower, you know, where someone throws seeds on various types of ground or soil, and in some cases, that that just dies. In other cases, it sprouts up nicely. And sometimes it sprouts up quickly and then dies because the soil isn’t that deep, and so on and so on. But it’s like you have to sort of be a fertile field for the teaching of any teacher. For I really stayed old and have benefited.
STEPHAN: Right, yeah, that’s a that’s a beautiful metaphor is Yeah.
RICK: And there’s and we can we can, we can cultivate that ground, you know, we can make it more fertile. Therefore, more, more kind of likely to make to enable teachings to have their intended value purpose.
STEPHAN: Absolutely. Yeah. I often say that, you know, just says we can be accident prone. I think you’re actually metaphor is more elegant, but we can make ourselves awakening. Yeah, you know, and by sitting quietly by inquiring, by reading the teachings of the great teachers, like hanging out with Sangha with, you know, fellow travelers on the same path. All these things predispose us to be fertile ground. Now, as you put it,
RICK: that to what you give your attention grows stronger in your life.
STEPHAN: That’s right.
RICK: You have a point here, a new vision for the teacher student relationship. What is your new vision for the teacher?
STEPHAN: I haven’t written the book. I
RICK: know, Rick, so now you’re given everybody
STEPHAN: teachers, right, right, right. Yeah. Yeah, I think it’s again, we’ve been touching on it throughout here is a more egalitarian relationship, I think teachers, again, I’ll come back to what I began with, which is that I, I think teachers really have an important role to play, either before or after awakening, or both. But it can’t be a top down hierarchical relationship, in the culture in which we live, you know, it’s just, it’s not gonna, it’s not going to last. It’s not gonna, it’s not going to work. So I like the the notion of a spiritual friend Kalyana Mitra is the term that’s used in the Buddhist tradition. And teachers in the pastor’s tradition are often characterized as Kalyana Mitra as spiritual friends. So I think, you know, we’re, we’re friends, this is more Aquarian or a gala. terian. You know, we’re all in it together, we’re all awakening, we’re on this awakening journey, some of us are a little farther ahead. And we look to them for guidance. But we’re all on the same journey. And I think that metaphor, we’re all on the same awakening journey. And we’re helping one another on the path. Some are, you know, somehow taking the role of, of teacher but at the same time, are very cognizant of the fact that they are students as well. So that if you’re a teacher, you’re also very, as we talked about earlier, very aware of being a student that is an integral part of your being a teacher, is also to be a student, and that you’re not polarizing, as we talked about, in the archetype of awakening, then in darkened. So that would be my vision for and I think it’s happening. So it’s not my vision, I think is happening more and more.
RICK: Yet, I don’t think this model necessarily levels the playing field. In other words, like, if you’re an aspiring cellist and you happen to have a friendship with yo, yo Ma. That’s, you’re not going to just assume that you’re as good a cellist as he is. But you know, your friendship. There’s the friendship dimension in which your buddies, but you have a lot to learn from him.
STEPHAN: Did you ever have you ever seen videos of Yo Yo Ma, the the humblest person around, he’s like, he’s so interested in the people around him. He’s so interested in learning from them. And when he plays music with other people, he’s like really responsive and interested in what there has to offer. So yo, yo Ma is, to me is a beautiful example of a teacher in the mold that we’re talking about.
RICK: Yeah, I saw a thing a while back where he went to get his COVID vaccination, and he set up his cello and played it for the people who are waiting to get their vaccinations. That’s pretty
STEPHAN: cool. Yeah. Beautiful, beautiful human. Yeah.
RICK: I guess one more point I want to raise with you is the I mean, I was reminded of it because I mentioned COVID vaccination? A lot. I’ve had to take down some I didn’t have to, but we took down some interviews recently, because the teachers in question, seem to have been doing nothing. But harping about COVID and vaccinations and so on, in a way, which I feel is scientifically unfounded and rather dangerous. So what is and it’s not their expertise, you know, they’re just picking up on all the misinformation flying around, which I characterize as misinformation. So what do you think about the role, the importance of teachers kind of sticking to their craft or their expertise, and not necessarily dispensing advice on on other things, which they don’t really know about, even if they feel they know something, or have learned something and feel it’s important.
STEPHAN: I’m not gonna judge what other people are doing or not doing, but I’m with you, fundamentally, I mean, that’s how I perceive my role. I don’t feel that it’s my role or responsibility or that I have any authority to tell other people or to even share my views on politics. I this is just how I am now I know, you know, plenty of other teachers may do it differently, but it’s not a you know, I don’t have any expertise, as you said, or authority and to use my authority as a teacher to try to leverage other beliefs and influence other people in a way. I don’t think that’s my role. I’d rather keep it pure. This is what I’m here to offer. This is this is my, my role. This is why I’m here, you know, and I think it’s muddying the the ground but again, that’s just For me, others can do what they they want. But that’s not what I would do. I don’t recommend Yeah.
RICK: And I got some flack for doing that naturally. Someone just today emailed to say, now you’ve shown your true colors are taking down so and so. But I don’t know, I just feel like Irene and I both feel like we have a big responsibility with this show. And, you know, an interview is, it’s kind of a referral and, you know, sometimes sometimes launches people’s teaching careers or boosts them. And we just don’t feel if a person is saying or doing something that which we feel is irresponsible or inappropriate. We just don’t feel an obligation to continue referring people to them. We feel responsibility not to as a matter of fact, and obviously, people have differing opinions and views, but we just have to sort of go by our our best insights and judgment. Yeah,
STEPHAN: you have to do you have to do what feels right to again, discernment.
RICK: Yeah. Yeah. Because, again, it’s a big responsibility. Being a spiritual teacher. It’s a big responsibility, referring people discouraging teachers. It’s a it’s the most precious, like we’ve been saying most precious relationship one could have in life in many respects. And
STEPHAN: I agree, I’m glad we’re coming back to that at the end of our Yeah, that is such a, it’s such a precious discovered the Dharma, you know, and in the in the Tibetan tradition, they say this is rare as what is it as Dr. Gupta metaphors, but it’s so rare to have to encounter even these truths and be open to them in one’s lifetime. And then to meet a teacher, that relationship is so precious. So I think it’s important to take really good care of it to attend it carefully. Yeah, there’s
RICK: a sacred ness to it. Which sacredness? Yeah, yeah. Okay, well, that is a good note to end on. Obviously, all these points could use further elaboration, but I think we’ve covered things pretty thoroughly.
STEPHAN: I think so two hours. That’s a long conversation. I’ve enjoyed. Yeah, it’s great. It’s also been back and forth. And, you know, I’ve really, you know, agreed with most of what you’re saying and appreciated your part in this whole conversation.
RICK: Yeah. If you hadn’t agreed with some of it, I wouldn’t have been upset. Yeah. All right. Well, thanks, Steven, really appreciate having the opportunity to get together with you like this again. And to those who’ve been listening or watching, I’ll put up a page on bat gap about this interview with links to Stephens website and books here. I’m showing his website on the screen right now. What is it Steven bowden.org or.com or.org.org. Can you spell it STP h a n but do dia n that org? And in any case, like you mentioned earlier, you have some kind of six month course every year, and you probably don’t. Mine
STEPHAN: school for school for awakening yet starts again in January, January 1515 years.
RICK: They can go to your website and find out information about that six month course.
STEPHAN: Right. Great. Sounds good. Okay, very good. Thanks.
RICK: Thank you. And thanks to those who’ve been listening or watching and we’ll see you for the next one. Go to Bat gap calm and explore the menus. Talk to you later. Bye. Okay,