October 18, 2018
Rick Archer: 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 hundreds of them now, and if you find this interesting and would like to check out previous ones, please go to BatGap.com and look under the past interview’s menu. This program is made possible by the support of appreciative listeners and viewers. I say listeners and viewers because it’s in both podcast form and video form and so if you appreciate it and feel like supporting it, even a modest monthly donation makes a significant difference if enough people do it. There’s a PayPal button on every page of the site, and there’s also a page about donations which explains a little bit why we ask for them and gives the alternative ways of making them. My guest today is an old friend of mine, Steve Briggs, who is sitting here. Steve and I have known each other for decades because of our background in the TM movement, Transcendental Meditation. We had adventures together in France and Switzerland and India, now Iowa, where I see Steve several times a week because I go up to the gym and he teaches tennis up there. Steve was sort of a tennis prodigy in his youth as we’ll probably be talking about here and went to the University of Arizona on a tennis scholarship. I would say his main love though is spirituality which there’s probably some overlap and tennis can have a spiritual dimension as I think we’ll actually be discussing and so consequently he met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at a meditation retreat in the Swiss Alps in probably the 70s.
Steve Briggs: ‘73
Rick Archer: And eventually became a TM teacher and spent a lot of time in India, seven years actually, teaching TM to corporate executives. During that time, he also traveled around and went to the Himalayas many times where he encountered many Yogis and Sadhus, and he has some interesting stories about that. Steve is a devotee of Mata Amritanandamayi, Amma, who he met in India in 1996. He still practices TM, has been doing that for the past 46 years, and he credits Maharishi, his guru, with showing him the path to enlightenment. Steve has written two books, the first is India: Mirror of Truth, which came out about 15 years ago,
Steve Briggs: Yeah, in 2006
Rick Archer: Which I read at the time, found it fascinating and, more recently, this is nonfiction chronicling Steve’s adventures in India. This one is fiction but also based largely on his experience with Yogis and Saints and so on, The Tale of the Himalayan Yogis, I’ve been reading that one. I’d forgotten, you’d never written any fiction before, so…
Steve Briggs: That was the first try.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I was pleasantly surprised at that, wow, I couldn’t possibly do this. Somehow you just churn the stuff out.
Steve Briggs: Well, when I got to the University of Arizona where I went ostensibly to be a tennis player on a scholarship, and I thought I was going to be a Creative Writing major. I went into a creative writing seminar with graduate students and an author, professor, and I was totally intimidated by the things I was asked to write and read. I immediately shifted over to literature, and I did not write for a long time, because it was just more than my confidence level of my writing at that time, so I left it for some time but eventually things that you love to do you get back to it, so I started writing.
Rick Archer: And they say if you want to be a good writer, read good writing and so you must have done that a lot of that as a literature major.
Steve Briggs: I thoroughly found it to read Shakespeare and whoever else I read; it was just a real great experience.
Rick Archer: Abraham Lincoln did that. He read Shakespeare every day, and he credited his love of good writing with his eloquence and ability to speak well. Yeah and of course many others say that as well.
Steve Briggs: I didn’t know that.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Now, I guess there will be two aspects to this interview, one we could say is the inner aspect and the other the outer aspect. The inner aspect being your subjective development over these decades and the outer aspect would be some of the very interesting experiences you’ve had and people you’ve encountered and so on. So maybe we should start with the inner aspect. I mean just right after that when you learnt to meditate was your experience significant? Actually prior to learning to meditate did you have any kind of spiritual inclinations even as a much younger person?
Steve Briggs: I was in college when I learned to meditate and the very first time I sat down and “transcended,” I was given a mantra, sat down for 10 minutes to meditate in the room, my first thought after I had the experience is I’ve had that before, I’ve clearly had that experience before and the reason why I believe I could say that honestly is because as a young tennis player growing up in athletics in a family that was just crazy over sports I started playing tournament tennis when I was six years old and got into the national tournaments I think by the time I was nine or ten. I was playing all around the country and by the time I was fifteen my brother and I, he was two years older, we got to be pretty well established, highly ranked players, and I was playing a guy on the stadium court in Kalamazoo, Michigan, at the US National Junior Championships. He was ranked like tenth in the country from Pacific Palisades, California, and it was a really close match, and I was having a big problem picking up the ball. The balls back then were white, not picking up from the ground, but picking up his shot, seeing the ball. The backgrounds had a red, white, and blue banner behind the server, and every time he served, I’d lose it in the banner. I thought I’ve got to do something about this fast because I’m not getting into the points where I should be and I started focusing more and I started focusing more and trying different things because I really had to pick up the ball, see the ball. As a result of that increased focus and obviously big desire to win, I was playing on the stadium court, there were probably 1,500 people watching in this stadium, and a shift started to occur. It took about ten minutes to fully occur, but it was an internal shift, nothing in the match was really changed. We were 50/50, he won the first set, I won the second set, but we’re getting down to the final stages of the match and this huge shift occurred. I started to be very lucid internally, my mind was picking up the things he was about to do, but he hadn’t done them yet. I sort of like, okay I’ve got a real advantage here. I sensed where he was going to serve, I knew where he’s going to hit the ball. I was a step ahead of him, I was a step ahead of what I usually did as a tennis player, and I went on and won the match and that put me in a great position in the national tournament. I had no idea what had happened except I knew something in my awareness had changed. Not just being more alert, because you can be more alert driving, but you don’t necessarily know maybe what’s going to happen a moment before it happens, it may be that way, but I felt almost prescient. I just said this is cool, and then I started finding out that other tennis players are not, of course only tennis players but skiers and joggers and basketball players, they talked about being in what they referred to as the zone. Back then that was a layman’s term, getting in the zone meant everything and people used to say Michael Jordan, he’s in the zone again, because he would just kill everybody and make ten shots in a row. I identified that, okay I was in the zone, but then the next question two months later was alright, so I was in the zone, was it an accident, could I have that again? Could I have it regularly, could I find some way to make it happen, because that’s a huge competitive advantage. I didn’t know of any way or means to make it happen other than to try to redo the same things, but it didn’t work the next time. Okay, so then we fast-forward to high school or back in school. I’m a sophomore at Rock Island High School and my AP English Lit teacher said, okay pick one of four novels and she wrote the names on the board, and the fourth title was totally different than the other ones which were clearly English type titles and the fourth one was Siddhartha, Herman Hesse. I chose that out on a whim and I read it and I thought there’s something really unique here embedded in what he’s saying because it was a story of two friends who went to meet the Buddha, and one friend stayed with the Buddha and the other one loved his wisdom, but, sorry, loved who he represented, who Buddha embodied, but decided to go on his own path. Both were on a big spiritual lifetime path, so after reading that I started thinking maybe I should meditate, maybe I should do some yoga, but how do you do that on your own? You get a book from the library in 1968 or something and you don’t go very far, so.
Rick Archer: Siddhartha kind of got me going. And Timothy Leary…… [laughing]
Steve Briggs: Yeah, yeah. So that was a kind of the jumpstart officially in my mind knowing there was something that I thought might help me and it just so happened that it came from the East. In reading the book I realized that this was an Indian story of two Indian boys who chartered their spiritual path and that didn’t lead me very far except to experiment and then very soon of my first year in college two-three years later I then got to TM.
Rick Archer: Saw a poster or something?
Steve Briggs: Yes, in a Shakespeare classroom, and it was like Maharishi’s picture was there, and I kept turning to the picture. I think I’m studying King Lear or whatever turning to the picture and of course the picture won.
Rick Archer: Yeah [laughing] King Lear didn’t do so well. Okay, so you learned, and you had this profound experience, and it was reminiscent of …
Steve Briggs: And the day of instruction we went in and sat down and my teacher had been to Europe to be with Maharishi and he came, he gave me this instruction and a Mantra, and I sat down and I just sunk into a lake, I just went to the bottom, sat there and when I came out, I said I’ve had that, I had that before and maybe now this will be how I can replicate it and do something for my tennis and honestly within six months my game took a big step forward. By the spring of our, we had a very good team at Arizona, we were top ten NCAA every year that I was there, and we had five of our eight players were meditating, much to the disappointment of our coach, because we were meditating when he wanted to sit down to breakfast in the hotel and talk to us, so we were always, I don’t know what his real feelings were but anyway we were pretty dedicated because everyone, we were all playing very well as a result.
Rick Archer: That’s great.
Steve Briggs: And not long after that I just have one more bit about the tennis. We actually taught a lot of the top players in the world, Arthur Ashe and so forth, to meditate and two or three of them said the same thing, I’ve had this experience before. So more recently I came across a book about how to develop children’s potential in life, about a substance or quality in the brain that surrounds the neurons called myelin. The book was titled the Talent Code by a guy named Daniel Coyle, and Daniel Coyle went all over the world to find out what were the commonalities, what were the common features in places like Brazil where they have an inordinate amount of great soccer players; Moscow, Russia, where they’re ridiculously high number of great tennis players. He went to North Korea where the women have dominated the pro golf scene, like maybe 15 out or the top 30 are from Korea, it’s just outrageous.
Rick Archer: Dominican Republican in baseball.
Steve Briggs: Dominican Republican baseball. Some little town in Texas that had a lot of country-western singers, and this study that he did was to see if something that surrounds the neuron in the brain called myelin if that sheath was somehow enhanced or made stronger as a result of repeated athletic performance or musical performance or dance performance where you train rigorously and with focus but in a joyful way. And that’s what they found, they found that people who spend long hours in focused activities, people who do things they’re passionate about do develop this myelin sheathing of the neurons and that myelin gives a smoother more consistent, more effective, more efficient transfer of information through the brain to other parts of the body and that’s very much helpful in performance. Imagine the analogy of these 16-year-old Olympic girls who are gold medalists in ice skating. They perform these mind-boggling gymnastical feats on skates in front of how many millions of people and they’ve repeated that performance so many times that is second nature for them, and their brain finds its way through, the brain functioning is benefited by this myelin sheathing that helps avert the nervous neurons and all those types of things and they perform spectacularly under the most heavy pressure.
Rick Archer: Yeah, what always gets me is these little girls that can do backflips on a balance beam and stuff like that.
Steve Briggs: The beams only are a few inches wide.
Rick Archer: A few inches wide. I believe, a neurophysiologist could comment a lot more eloquently, but I believe that destruction or deterioration of the myelin sheath is involved in such diseases as multiple sclerosis, and I know there’s research on meditation which shows a thickening of the frontal cortex and actual physical restructuring of the brain in people who have been meditating for a long time and the term neuroplasticity is very popular. A guy I interviewed named Rick Hanson, is one of the primary authors about that. Anyway.
Steve Briggs: If you look at it, America is really into athletic heroes. You’ve got your
Rick Archer: Tiger Woods just won
Steve Briggs: Tiger Woods, right, we’ve got Steph Curry, LeBron James, and Michael Jordan, and from Europe you’ve got in tennis, you’ve got Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams of course who grew up in Los Angeles, lives in Florida I believe. These are role models for many-many-many millions of kids.
Rick Archer: You told me the New York Times did an article entitled Roger Federer as Religious Experience.
Steve Briggs: Yeah. And he, when you see him, he looks like a Baryshnikov, it’s balletic, what he does it’s so graceful, so coordinated, so transcendent, so effortless, it appears,
Rick Archer: Yeah
Steve Briggs: Now, we don’t see what he does behind the scenes, we don’t see all the work he puts in to develop the brain physiology and the physical skills, but we see the beautiful end product and he doesn’t ever want to quit. He just loves doing it. He’s 37 which is not old as human beings go but it’s ancient, it’s very old for tennis, because the wheels, the legs,
Rick Archer: And he still winning.
Steve Briggs: Yes, he’s still number two in the world, and he’s got 20 Grand Slams.
Rick Archer: Wow, that’s great. Okay, well this interview is not going to be all about sports, but it’s important, I mean it’s important to have a healthy body for one thing, I mean most of us aren’t going to be professional athletes, but the body is the vehicle through which enlightenment or spiritual evolution takes place. This is one thing I realized when I was about 18 and had been damaging my vehicle for some time, I realized you’re stuck in this body, and if you damage it, you’re going to be stuck all of your life in a damaged body, so I thought that’s it, I’m going to stop taking drugs, learn to meditate, and turn it around.
Steve Briggs: Yeah, well, tennis is one of; many, many great musicians and dancers, but the interesting thing with tennis specifically is that it began, it had a bit of a spiritual-religious beginning. It was very popular in the European monastic life. It was an indoor game, was slightly different, but it was played with an early version of a racquet and a ball, and the monks used to, the monastics used to go in after their lunch or sometime during the afternoon and hit it around.
Rick Archer: Yeah, actually it feels good if you’ve spent a lot of your time meditating to do something rather strenuous. It helps to integrate and counterbalance all that sitting.
Steve Briggs: Interesting enough, probably that early version of tennis was more like your game pickleball, because I don’t think it had strings in the rackets and the balls were not the same as the tennis ball, but it was very popular and then it became a sport that the Kings in France and England took up.
Rick Archer: Yeah, so you learn to meditate in the early 70s, probably about forty-five years ago or more or almost about that much and so if you look back over those forty-five years, are there like milestones that stand out in your memory in terms of your subjective development as being significant shifts of some sort?
Steve Briggs: I’d say there are three or four. I’ve given some thought to that over the years and there are three or four and three of them relate to saint or guru figures. We can start with those if we like.
Rick Archer: Okay.
Steve Briggs: Well, the first one was in the early 90s. I was visiting with Maharshi in Holland, he had moved from Switzerland to Holland, and he was preparing us for this project that I spent seven years in India doing, teaching TM to corporates and which was what this memoir travel book was about. I was sitting with Maharishi one night with a couple of the other people who were on their way to India with me, and he kept looking over my head. Don’t know why but I just noticed he’s looking over my head and I was feeling a little uncomfortable, like what’s he seeing.
Rick Archer: He was seeing your aura? [laughing]
Steve Briggs: You know I didn’t have; I didn’t have a lot of skeletons in my closet, I’m sure everyone has a couple, I’m sure I had some, but nothing else happened. But then that night I was awake in the night in my room. The room was perfectly black with curtains blocking out all the light from outside, and Maharishi popped into my awareness. He wasn’t in the room physically, let’s make that clear, but he popped into my awareness in a very clear manner, didn’t say a word to me, and he just smiled and it’s like he reached inside my torso and took both hands and took what appeared to be one pipe here and one pipe here. Presumably some part of my physiology and stuck them together.
Rick Archer: Hmm
Steve Briggs: And when he left then he was gone. It was like this is like the most efficient plumber, it’s like I came to do this, we’re not having a conversation, don’t even ask me what I’m doing and then he was vanished, but everything shifted, big time. Inside everything shifted to what was prior to that kind of a half-light inner awareness that I was sitting there with to a brilliant, at times golden, shimmering awareness. The rest of night was uncharacteristic and asleep. I don’t think I was ever unconscious at all the rest of the night and the next day.
Rick Archer: In other words, your body was sleeping but your inner awareness was aware.
Steve Briggs: It’s what sometimes people call it witnessing sleep. I don’t say I was sitting above my body looking down, but I was wide awake, but I could hear my breath
Rick Archer: Yeah
Steve Briggs: When it got heavy and so on and sometimes even a light snore, but I was fully aware of all that, so I knew I was sleeping.
Rick Archer: I was going to throw in a point here which is that witnessing is often talked about and, either in sleep or in waking state, it’s not a dissociative thing where some part of you has stepped aside and stepped back and is witnessing the other part of you. It’s more like your essential nature which is pure consciousness which is not an individuated thing has become awake to itself and there’s a contrast between that and the individual and the individual activities. Because of the nature of that is pure silence it often feels like well I’m doing stuff but I’m not doing anything at all, or I’m asleep and yet I’m not asleep. Your senses may not be functioning even, so it’s not like you could even be thinking about it if you’re fast asleep, all that can be shut down and yet that inner awareness persists.
Steve Briggs: And that inner awareness can be described equally well when people are in dynamic activity and that was a great description of it. That’s what sometimes athletes describe. I remember Michael Jordan, he’d come off of a game for the NBA championships and he was just in his zone, and he would say hey, I was just watching myself do this, it was like I wasn’t even doing it and Steph Curry said that kind of thing. That was a little bit of the experience I had that first kind of taste of higher consciousness when I was playing that match I mentioned in Michigan when I was fifteen, sixteen years old.
Rick Archer: Just to add a point to that is I wanted to emphasize that because some people do misconstrue witnessing as something one should do or try to do. I was interviewing a guy one time and we got onto the subject of witnessing. He said, I can witness, and he kind of went into this little bit strange state where he was a little vacant and couldn’t talk with me quite so fluently and everything. Witnessing should if anything enhance your functionality, not detract from it if it’s real, actual witnessing in the way that was traditionally meant or understood.
Steve Briggs: That experience with Maharishi was about two weeks before he sent us, a couple of us to India to do this project that I had mentioned. I was carrying with me a book about Swami Ramakrishna’s life. Ramakrishna was a Bengali and he was a great devotee, a great bhakta devotee of Kali. I was reading about his life, and it was all, much of it was about his relationship with this aspect of Divine Mother, Kali, and by the time I got to India I had finished the book, but I hadn’t finished somehow with Kali, because I walked into my room at the ashram, we were staying in ashram outside of Delhi, one of Maharishi’s ashrams
Rick Archer: Noida?
Steve Briggs: Noida. And in the guest room I walked, there was a substantial painting. It was an original painting of Kali and some of her different aspects. I would sit down in our assignment, Maharishi said, okay you’re going to go and you’re going to meditate for X number of hours before you go to town and meet all your appointments and then you’re going to come back, so we had a very – we were on his brahmachari routine at that time. We’re supposed to meditate five, six hours a day in spite of the fact that we were –
Rick Archer: In addition to running into New Delhi.
Steve Briggs: Yeah, in addition. And so, I would sit there, and as I was so immersed in the story of Swami Ramakrishna and Kali, I kept having my attention pulled away from my meditation mantra and it kept falling on Kali. I kept looking at Kali. It wasn’t just like, okay I’m looking at the picture on the wall, but the picture was internalizing itself to a great extent and eventually I stopped looking at her picture on the wall and started looking at, my imagination maybe, or my vision of her within me, and it was not one-dimensional. It was like it would inspire or generate what I would call a feeling of Liquid Light and that Liquid Light would, like a liquid, begin to fill up my physiology and as it filled up I would find my breathing and my thoughts were just on the way out. And as it really filled up, then that all subsided, I mean there I don’t think that breath was totally gone but the thoughts. It was such a relief to find, there’s no thoughts here, I’m just sitting here and I’m having this beautiful transcendent experience with this aspect of Divine Mother, free from thought, free from ever wanting to have thought again and just sitting there for hours at a time, no mantra, nothing, just Kali, the sense of Kali or the image of Kali. One or the other would always be there, and she would appear or present herself at 3:00 a.m., and I’d get up and, I’d had a long day, I’d get up, I’m not going to lie down, when I have this opportunity. So, I got really immersed in Kali and very soon after that the first trip that we made for our corporate work we were flown to Calcutta which is the home of Kali. While we’re there,
Rick Archer: They’ve got Ramakrishna
Steve Briggs: Yeah, and they were all Kali bhaktas long before Ramakrishna, but he became the head priest at the most – one of the two most famous Kali temples Dakshin Eshwar on the Ganges, they call it the Hooghly but it’s Ganges River. So we were flown into a cement company, did our meetings and as we were leaving, we said, can we visit this Kali temple, I was with a friend, Lane Reiger and so they took us to this temple and again it was like she came out of the statue, the Murti there of Kali and just like out of her statue into me and I just thought, wow, I didn’t know anything about Kali three months prior. Obviously, I did but I didn’t consciously, and I just got further and further immersed in her world and there, it wasn’t that much longer when I met Amma. And my experience with Amma was, again there’s this Kali quality about her that to me was unmistakable and I think some other devotees of hers have recognized that and even maybe written about it. I met her as a result of a CEO of Hugh’s Communications, a very big satellite communications company in India and he said, would you like to meet a saint. I said absolutely and it turned out to be Amma, and it was at her ashram near the Indira Gandhi Airport. And I was, my jaw dropped, I just couldn’t believe the power of this human being, and I thought to myself, I don’t know who she is, I haven’t heard much about her but just a friend took me innocently, but I want to know more. I thought to myself if there’s a Mahatma in this world of that power, because she hugged us all, then I think it would be a big mistake not to see her when I could. I started seeing when I could. When I got back to the U.S. of course, we were lucky she came to Iowa, and I didn’t know what to call her, Saint, Guru, Mahatma, Devi. All I know is that led to a second kind of darshan-type awakening which was when Amma came to Cedar Rapids that year. There was an announcement at the public Meeting, the first day, would anyone be willing to iron some of Amma’s sarees for this thing called Devi bhava which, I said I know how to iron – okay and, I mean I’m this guy, there’s three ironing boards and I’m ironing these silk saris and two ladies are ironing and I’m thinking, I didn’t think anything of it because I was single, actually I wasn’t single at that time, but I’d been single for all those years prior ironing my own shirts for these meetings around when we do TM stuff we always had to wear a dress shirt. So, I did not think of it, and then I was told, you can go sit near Amma, just go sit near Amma. I went and sat down there, and she had an assistant right next to her and the lady whispered in my ear, Amma wants you to massage her feet.
Rick Archer: I remember that I remember you massaging her feet for like half an hour.
Steve Briggs: Yeah. And she says Amma wants you to massage, and I said how do you do that? Well, don’t rub too hard but just take hold of both her feet in both your hands and just gently. So I go, great and I’ll tell you the lights went on and another awakening and I’m using the word awakening, I wouldn’t say awakened, but more was there, more was added, and I was just floating for days. I just thought, and I just really realized and respected the fact that a human being of a substantially higher vibration, whether it is Amma or Maharshi, the first time I saw Maharishi and I gave him a flower, I was just dumbfounded at how powerful his eyes, his gaze was. These special individuals can really bestow and give grace to an individual at a time when they want to and I was, so that was a big awakening for me.
Rick Archer: Yeah. This Amma that we’re talking about – if anybody’s curious it’s amma.org, if you want to check her out. She goes all over the world. Yeah, I had an experience one time, my mother had a rough life with my father being rather abusive and she tried to commit suicide three times and she’d been in and out of mental hospitals during most of my adolescence. Then I got into TM and got into teaching and was over in Switzerland and she was, I asked Maharishi if she could come over there and he agreed and so she came over and spent nine months, but the first time she saw him she was at twenty, thirty feet away as he was coming into the hall. He came along giving people flowers and people were giving him flowers and so and then he got up to us and my mother handed him a flower and he handed her flower, and he looked at me and said keep her happy and then he walked on up to his couch. Then she turned to me and her whole face was different, and she looked at me she said he looks right into your soul. She stayed there nine months and was never back in mental hospitals and it really transformed her.
Steve Briggs: Very perceptive thing that she said. And I think a lot of people have had that experience, you see videos of people seeing Maharishi for the first time or being hugged by Amma on a video and the tears.
Rick Archer: Yeah, sometimes big football player types.
Steve Briggs: Yeah, how many times you’ve seen they’re coming away from the hug and there’s just, tears are streaming down their face, or their bodies are even shaking because they’ve had this huge relief of stress from their life. It, maybe something traumatic had happened, and they’ve just been relieved of it.
Rick Archer: I think what’s cool about it among other things is just that it’s an example of what a human being can become, even though you can’t totally fathom her subjective status or experience or anything, but there’s something evidently so extraordinary that especially if you watch her for hours on end and you think how could a person do this or be like this? It gives you a sort of a broader, more profound sense of the possibilities for human life.
Steve Briggs: Well, those two examples were kind of, focusing right now and if you look at their lifestyle, I mean the times I’ve spent with Maharishi in Switzerland, he would sometimes meet with us until 3 a.m., and we be exhausted and we were like prime of our life, age-wise 30 years old, and we’d be exhausted, and he’d say you guys go to bed now. Then another group would come in. And then his secretary said, well it’s late Maharishi. Oh yeah, we’ll go to bed, and he would continue, the Sun was coming up, and we know from seeing Amma that she works, she functions that way without stopping and hugs hundreds and thousands of people every year and it goes on like that. So those are, that’s kind of like being plugged into the big, big power source. We’re trying to get there and we’re improving, we’re adding more wattage to our capacity over time, I think.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I think, we talked about the brain undergoing transformation. I think that there are other dimensions to the instrument which have to also be transformed, subtle body, and stuff like that.
Steve Briggs: There was one more awakening that I thought I would like to address and this one was completely based in a phrase that I like to use sometimes called perception without the senses. I don’t know, I hope this will make reasonable sense. I think it will. Human beings live in a physical vibrational world where we see trees, we see each other, we see animals, and we live on that level, and if we give any credence to the various religious descriptors around the world or the things that religious and spiritual leaders, Mahatma’s might say, they’ll say, well you see that range of creation but you should know that there are greater possibilities in creation than what you can physically see. There are lower levels below a human being which we might call asuric, even demonic, rakshasik, those are Sanskrit terms for that level. Or there may well be levels higher than the human level which we could call angelic or Devic or Godlike or something and the only reason we don’t see it is because our eyes and senses are not developed enough to go beyond this certain range of sense experience, just the way, you’ve got a dog, and dogs can hear far better than humans.
Rick Archer: And smell.
Steve Briggs: Yeah, and I think a bear, a bear can smell like one hundred or a thousand times better than a human being. So, we may not pick up the scent of a strawberry from 200 yards away, but the bear can. So, it doesn’t mean the strawberry is not there, just means that we don’t have the sensory apparatus or the development of those senses to appreciate it. I think that analogy is appropriate for other levels of creation. I preface this other awakening because this one was completely without the use of the senses, and I was just awake in meditation and again it was a Maharishi experience, and it was only a few months ago. He just appeared, did not see him at all, not an iota with my physical eyes or hear with my ears, but he appeared and both hands on my head, and again there wasn’t any communication, but it was completely an internal experience. Then he left and that one left me reeling in a very positive way. I found that very unexpected because Maharishi passed away ten years ago, and I’ve never
abandoned Maharishi but I haven’t been thinking a lot about him since he left. It almost was a surprise to me, but it was a very, very expansive experience and a very welcomed experience and again a reminder, and I don’t think awakening, my 3-minute awakening anecdotes were all with Guru Saints, but awakenings, I’m sure you’ve done this interview so many times that you’ve heard a thousand different vehicles for having an awakened experience. Maybe a river, maybe, when Siddhartha got his awakened experience at the end of
Rick Archer: Flow of a river, yeah.
Steve Briggs: And the wisdom of a very simple ferryman who hardly had anything to say.
Rick Archer: Who was it; Eckhart Tolle talks about somebody who got awakened looking at a cat watching a mouse hole because of the sort of presence and focus of the cat, he kind of entrained with that and that was the trigger to his awakening.
Steve Briggs: My experience of various levels of awakening, it always begins internally with this thing of filling up with what I would like to refer to as Liquid light. I think it’s a quality of prana and a quality of consciousness that blends together and just fills up, maybe it’s a physical feeling of pure consciousness, I can’t say, but it feels liquidy to me, three-dimensional, it doesn’t feel like it’s less than that. Maybe multi-dimensional and then when it fills up, I feel like I’m free.
Rick Archer: My cup runneth over.
Steve Briggs: I feel like I can very easily just float up into what might be conveniently called a higher reality or cosmic reality or divine reality, and then I really feel like I’m closer to who I want to be or who I am becoming.
Rick Archer: Don’t you feel like you lose it again?
Steve Briggs: I consciously in my meditation at a certain point, and to me when people say have you had, are you awakened, and I’ll say I can’t really answer that. You’d have to ask someone else because I’m kind of stuck with this idea that I know, like Anandamayi Ma the great Indian Saint, she could sit in Samadhi for days at a time. I sit down, I can meditate for hours at a time, you can too, but days, I’ve never done that, and I don’t know that it would be appropriate. I don’t know what state of consciousness that requires, if it’s more or greater I can’t say, but it’s somehow … I can’t fly.
Rick Archer: Well, that brings a couple of questions up. One is that if flying were the criterion or the acid test for being awakened, pretty much nobody is that we know of although there’s historical anecdotes.
Steve Briggs: St. Francis, yeah
Rick Archer: St. Francis, St. Joseph of Cupertino, and many others. But if being able to meditate for days on end is a criterion for awakening then that too could be a problem. I mean we could presume that somebody like Amma could do it, but she doesn’t do it.
Steve Briggs: I think she might have when she was young. Maybe sitting on the beach.
Rick Archer: Yeah, she’d go into Samadhi. She’d actually be walking along, and she’d think of Krishna or something, and she just fall to the ground in Samadhi. Even that using the toilet over the backwater she’d fall in. [laughing] Anyway, we have to be careful, I think establishing…
Steve Briggs: No, there are no criterion there. I do think it would be beneficial in many, most, possibly most, circumstances to be in a holier place might help, along a holy river. Although it certainly could happen anywhere, I would imagine.
Rick Archer: Yeah, and also when you say, people ask you if you’re awakened, I react to that the same way I react to the word enlightened or enlightenment. There’s a sort of a superlative static connotation to it which in my experience with all these hundreds of people I’ve interviewed, I’ve never seen an example of. I mean maybe they have reached some terminus point and I’m not able to appreciate it, but I really have gotten the impression that everybody is a work in progress. If you’re still breathing, and even if you’ve stopped breathing and you’ve gone on to some other level, the range of potential unfoldment is vast.
Steve Briggs: I think that’s a great way to phrase it, a work-in-progress. I don’t think we’d want it any other way. I would always look forward to the idea that there’s something more out there. I could say I have an adventuresome side of me and I always look and whether it’s going inward or going on a pilgrimage or a vacation, I always feel like, oh I’d like to have a new experience. I think that’s a healthy thing.
Rick Archer: Yeah and just to put a fine point on that when you say, I’d like to have a new experience, that gives the impression that enlightenment or awakening is an experience which may come and go like the way sensory experiences do, but what we’re talking about here is something which, the awakening to something which abides, which is, the unreal has no being, the real never ceases to be. The ephemeral experiences may come and go, whereas this baseline is established which doesn’t.
Steve Briggs: Yeah, I like that old analogy of Maharishi where you’re sitting in a really comfortable warm bathtub and you’re just sitting and it’s quiet and you could say that the warm bath water is being. You’re just immersed in this abiding soothing quality of being and then maybe at some point in the bath you might want to slosh around and move the waves. When I say a new experience, I’m referring to sloshing the waves around a little bit and experiencing on that level, and having it be that much more rewarding and enriching as a result of having a foundation which is abiding and non-changing underneath it.
Rick Archer: Yeah, actually Maharishi did change his emphasis a little bit in the late 70s from just transcending and getting established in the transcendent to stirring it up and practicing Siddhi program in order to enliven specific channels.
Steve Briggs: Yeah, I was thinking about the mantra for a second in that, what role does it have in this whole process because many people are taught the mantra is a meaningless sound. But as time went by and as I was living in India and having these Devi kind of awakening experiences, a part of my experience got morphed into an experience that my mantra became the most meaningful word in my life. In Sanskrit, mantras we can understand are Sanskrit words that are in the Vedic scriptures, many of which are said, and I think Ramakrishna said it about as well as anyone, that a mantra is like an acorn and within the acorn is the oak tree and the mantra, within the mantra is the form of a god which you are thinking about or meditating on.
Rick Archer: Enlivening or invoking.
Steve Briggs: And so, I think that’s a process of self-discovery, and that’s a part of the discovery that I realized that here I was sitting not even knowing if my mantra had anything other than a soothing effect, which I was told. Then I came to the cognition of, realization that my mantra was an aspect of this Divine Feminine that charmed me so much when I saw Amma, when I saw the picture of Kali and went to the Kali temple. It just, the pieces started to fit together.
Rick Archer: Yeah, traditionally, and more esoterically, mantras are considered to be sort of, it’s crude to say names of Gods. They’re sort of auditory representations of primal impulses of intelligence. There’s a verse in the Gita that says, you support the Gods, and they support You. There is sort of this reciprocal relationship that gets established in using a mantra, a correct mantra correctly, in which, somehow or other I’m just speaking off-the-cuff here, but somehow rather those primal impulses of intelligence that’s imbibed or embedded in your mantra you begin to align with that, and it supports your life. So, a mantra is not only for transcending, it actually results in what we might call support of nature or support of Divine Intelligence in order to more evolutionarily orchestrate your life.
Steve Briggs: Well, there’s a lot of sayings in scriptures and one of them that’s always made a lot of sense, you are what you meditate on, you are what you think, you are what your attention –
Rick Archer: To which you give your attention grows stronger and stronger and you become that.
Steve Briggs: and you become that. I can’t imagine how many times someone who’s meditated for a few decades has repeated a mantra in whatever technique they’re using, so that becomes a vehicle of inward and outward development and support of nature as you’re saying.
Rick Archer: I mean if what we’re saying here is valid, it also makes it clear that just sitting down picking any old meaningless sound is not going to have the same effect. In fact, when we were on our teacher training course people were practicing how to teach people and people picking sounds like tugboat or something and some people would actually begin to get physically sick…[laughing] thinking a different sound like that.
Steve Briggs: Well, I think with mantra or in in the whole tradition of bhakti yoga and I think there’s more emphasis on devotional yoga in Amma’s path than possibly would be at least have been articulated by Maharishi and I do feel that as a person grows in devotion towards some ideal whether it’s Devi or Krishna or whoever Jesus whoever, there’s a scripture I came upon, maybe a group of Veda scripture, they said that devotion of a human being toward one of these higher beings is food for that being. It’s like their nutrition.
Rick Archer: You support the Gods, and they support you.
Steve Briggs: That’s right. In the Sama Veda in the Sama Mandala, this idea that you’re providing them, because devotion and love and human emotion, human feeling is what is their apple, it’s their rice and dal. if I have this understood right and that’s also been verified by some personal experience that when I felt gratitude great upliftment of feeling toward some Divine Being, I felt a very strong reciprocation and it felt along the lines of a grace.
Rick Archer: Yeah, reciprocation is the key word here because I’ve heard somebody critique that point and say well, yeah, I believe in these beings, but they’re like energy vampires, just sort of sucking off, living off your devotion, but it’s reciprocal, you probably receive more than you give.
Steve Briggs: Possibly multiply. The reverse of that is that we talk about the human condition if you think about it, freewill is a big part of our and then there’s the question of destiny and that’s always been the philosophical question that people grappled with but the freewill that we have to think and to feel, we can have our attention very high in an elevated place in terms of devotion or even ideal thought about the universe and how vast or whatever. Or if we’re a little bit stressed and irritated and discordant internally, we might turn that and, I really don’t like that guy and I really, and if I start to feel it strongly to the level where I’m feeling anger and hatred and all those kind of things which people don’t feel generally day-to-day, but there are some who do, I think it’s important that my experience I’ve noticed and I’ve observed that negative feeling, negative emotion, negative thought is also a type of nutrition for some level of creation.
Rick Archer: Yeah, definitely. For instance, when they made that movie, The Exorcist. There were all kinds of stories about really bad things happening to people, actors, and who were working on the project there, because they were putting their attention on this demonic stuff, and they were also preparing something which would give a big wave of demonic energy. In fact, this fellow whom you would know, Andy Rhymer, he was really into that movie for some reason. I went to visit him and our friend, Rob Cox from Chicago and he made me watch that movie. He was into it, he thought it was some kind of like cosmic drama, and I felt so polluted that I actually set up a puja table and did poojas for a while just to purify myself after watching it.
Steve Briggs: Well, you can walk into a room and there’s been beautiful sentiment in that room, maybe a family reunion or something and a lot of people are gone, but you feel that love is still a residue in the room. Or you can walk into a room where some crime or murderous thing has happened in an odd place that just happened into and suddenly, I want to get out of here, and it’s very real.
Rick Archer: Well, when my mother was in mental hospitals I used to go and visit her and I was a new meditator at that point and whatever degree of awakening I had attained, it was very fledgling and flimsy and unintegrated and unstable. And I would go in there and I could just feel whatever degree of coherence I had just breaking apart and even if I didn’t, I couldn’t stay in there and visit with her, because I would just get so … Now some people obviously work in those places, and they’ve developed some kind of ability to function normally, but for me I was kind of wide open in a way and not stable in it and I couldn’t do it.
Steve Briggs: Yeah, I remember even fear falls into that category and in the world we live in today where terrorism, there’s people have natural responses to like their children’s safety, but we never want to let that runt get a free rein within ourselves, because fear corrodes or kind of erodes the soul in my observation. I want to, I think it’s one of the great lessons that I’m still trying to digest and assimilate, discipline not being hard hearted, but disciplined enough in my emotional day-to-day functioning as a coach, not screaming at my kids, hey, you know you can do this. You know, old football coaches, I let go of that a long time ago. That was a lesson I learned in Asia, in the Tibetan community, in the Nepalese community, and in the Indian spiritual communities that they are much, very much heart people, but they’re not as emotional people if you can make the distinction. They are heart people, but in day-to-day situations you would think, well they don’t show much emotion a lot of time. So, I think it’s a lesson, I was learning in India that coming from the West, my focus was always, what I was thinking, thinking thinking and a transition occurred where I suddenly realized that no, I need to be much more in my heart. Having a conversation with Tibetan lama up in this this district of Ladakh in northern India I took it to heart, because he said we don’t even want to have the same thought twice. It’s like we pour the pitcher of water into the teacup and we don’t refill the pitcher, we would rather, but that may be okay for contemplatively Lamas or monks. For the rest of us who earn a living and pay mortgages and so on, the mind is kind of thrown into activity but at the same time we would probably be spared a lot if we kept it in a very simple manner, we didn’t kind of keep running the same things through our heads.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I have a friend who commented on Facebook recently that she kind of, I don’t know if she just realized this or has known it for a while, but she doesn’t really think. She is surprised that people think in such as verbal way in their heads. It’s like she’s kind of functioning from a preverbal level. In fact, there are levels of speech in the Vedic thing vaikhari, pashyanti, madhyama, and so somehow, she’s at one of those subtler levels just functioning from there without verbal mental processes.
Steve Briggs: I think that’s a good candidate for describing what happens to these advanced artists and athletes and performers. You can’t think your way through the triple toe loop thing in the Olympics. You can’t do it. If you start thinking in a tennis match other than sensing and being alert, you’re going in the wrong direction. So, I’m sure a musician, a pianist can’t think, there’s no way he can think his way through what he’s doing.
Rick Archer: I was watching Zakir Hussain Tabla Solo a while back, and he was just going blaze so fast, and I thought what would it be like to be him doing that and definitely he couldn’t be functioning in any kind of a rational or logical or way in his mind to make his fingers and hands do what he’s doing. It’s got to just be coming from some deep intuitive level. That plus huge…
Steve Briggs: Plus, eight or ten hours of training …
Rick Archer: Waking up in the middle of the night to practice.
Steve Briggs: It’s wonderful in a way because it gives a training and that training spills over into other areas of their life as well.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Okay, so we’ve kind of sketched out a lot of your subjective development. I’m sure there’s more to say about it, I mean one thing you just alluded to which maybe you could elaborate on a bit more is this kind of shift from head to heart and that actually would lead us into some of the more outer stories, because that was facilitated by an encounter with the sage up in Jyotirmath in the Himalayas.
Steve Briggs: The first time I really started thinking in terms of head and heart, not necessarily very clearly, but it was way back in 1974 and you and I were both in this French Alps and Maharishi came to our Advanced Course, our Advanced Retreat and he said, I’m going to give you all some advanced technique, some initiation, and I went into the room, and I was only in there with him for about five minutes and he said now you need to follow your fine feeling level. My thought, like it jumped out of my head, well, what’s that? I was like the response to, was almost like he picked up on what I was thinking, and there was sort of a laser thread of light or something that kind of tickled my chest. I thought, that’s it, somehow, it’s being woven, I’m feeling it right now and then he said, and this is, you can cultivate that. Maharishi said by doing thus and such with the use of your mantra meditation. He elaborated on that and that was my instruction then I was sent away to do it. That was sort of like my intention of having my meditation process be more a mental technique, it had just shifted as a result of something Maharishi told me to being what I would call a more of a heart technique and that began to culture something a little different inside of me at that point.
Rick Archer: Did it kind of stay shifted after that?
Steve Briggs: No, not immediately, because I would forget. I’ve never been an intellectual person for whatever reason, but I realized, I was in in college at the time I had to do my schoolwork well and all that, so I had to think clearly, and I had to remember things and whatnot. But it did make an impression, and I did, when I would come to junction points in decisions in my life, I would think where do I want to make this decision from up here or in here? And I at least gave 50% of my attention to what I felt about it, because I don’t think a lot of us in the Western world are taught to just make decisions based on feeling level, as much as maybe other parts of the world. That’s just a guess. Anyway, I get to India, and this is some years later after Maharishi did this instruction in the French Alps, and later I did get to India on this project again from Maharishi’s instruction. At that point I met a sage or a saint on a couple of different occasions there, three that I remember, and that really turned me 180 degrees around in how I viewed my life as a human being and the direction I wanted to take. I met him up in the Himalayas. He referred to himself as Keshava and I wrote about him in a chapter in my memoir book, India: Mirror of Truth, and he had this quality about him that I would only describe as ageless. He didn’t seem that, you couldn’t define, he could be 20, he could be 50, but he looked like he wasn’t going to ever age. And he was mysterious, he was extremely comical guy, but very simple and seemed to be in complete control of every situation. And we talked very openly about spirituality. I told him at the time I’m aging fast, I’m 50 years old, I had a lot of gray hair, I was losing my hair, it’s all gone now, and he was laughing he said, no, no, no, age is like just a byproduct of a few negative thoughts you’ve had. I said, no I don’t think so. He said, here are some things I would like you to try. And he gave me three different instructions over the course of my encounters with him. The first one, he referred to as continuous breathing. He said every human being breathes but how many people are aware that they’re breathing? It’s involuntary, it just happens, but if you can add consciousness to your breathing and you can do this, you’re on a telephone or he said anywhere you are, in an airplane, if you can do this conscious breathing, you can breathe your way to enlightenment. And he said, you can reverse your aging. Because it’s the cells in your body, in your brain that require this prana and they get cut off from through blocks of stress and so on and all the subtle physiology. He referred to the spine as the backbone of the person, the great transmitter and receiver of all the cosmic knowledge that he seemed to have. He referred to the spine as that, and we know about it from various systems of yoga that may be true, Kundalini Yoga or whatever. So, he said breathe, that was the first thing and do it effortlessly, don’t do it, it might be one way one day, it might be another way another day, so don’t get too rigid about it, but it’s a type of …
Rick Archer: Do you do that even if you’re playing tennis?
Steve Briggs: I do it, not in a point, but in between points.
Rick Archer: In between points you bring your attention.
Steve Briggs: When I’m teaching I absolutely do it every a few breaths. When I started to learn more, I realized at one point I was reading a little about Kriya Yoga in Yogananda’s tradition, and it seemed very much in sync with what he taught. And I know he taught more than one technique, but that Kriya Yoga, the breathing process seemed to be very-very similar. So that was one thing and the other thing that seemed to be more profound was that Keshava said, you can close your eyes and you have meditated long enough now that you can merge, was the term, with any Divine Being who you feel an affinity towards. Divine beings. I said, who are we talking about here. He said, Buddha, Krishna, Jesus, and some other names he mentioned, but those were the primary three. I said okay, Krishna, I feel very Hindu, I’m living in India. I have been thinking of, reading Hindu books, and reading Sanskrit stuff, scriptures. So, he said, okay merge with Krishna, he said, breathe Krishna into yourself through your heart, through your chest and then feel the open expansion and keep doing it. He said, there’s no, literally no, limit to how wide you can expand. He said do it, but don’t think of this as a formal initiation, just enjoy it, you don’t have to do it every day, you don’t ever have to do it again, but he said if you practice it, you’ll get benefit from it. So those were the first two things he told me up in the Himalayas, and in another encounter which would have to involve this comment of perception without the senses because it was not a physical, we’re having a physical conversation. This was more an internal vision type of thing. He said it would be wonderful if you could keep your/a mantra going 24/7. I’ve never been able to do it. I know a couple people who have been able to do it, but to think that I could do it during sleep or do it during my job or while I’m eating or whatever that’s still been.
Rick Archer: I heard Maharishi say that one too, and it wasn’t so much in that you would make an attempt to do it, it was more like it would become automatic, it would just be going on in the background.
Steve Briggs: This is it. You nailed it, Rick. Just on auto pilot. In a sense it’s just the background music in your mind rather than thinking about a Beatles song. [laughing]
Rick Archer: Here Comes the Sun.
Steve Briggs: Yeah, so those are the three things spiritually that I thought could be of benefit to my life, to my evolution, to my growth, and I’ve tried to integrate them, because Maharishi had given some beautiful instructions for the spiritual path. Amma has given beautiful advice. At one time Keshava said, you’re far enough along, you can look as it’s like you have a menu in front of you. You have been doing the same thing for so many decades, now I’m going to say to you if you’re willing to accept this, have the menu and one day, maybe you’d like this thing from the menu, maybe one day chocolate cake, maybe one day apple pie. So don’t feel like you have to do the same thing every single day of your life. You want to go into it, inspired and fresh and I’m looking forward to my evening, spiritual sadhana and take that approach. One day you might chant, one day you might breathe more, and I have found that to be useful for me. I never feel that it’s rote now or just I do this because I have to do it or that I am letting somebody down on it.
Rick Archer: Of course, he was saying that to someone who was pretty well-established and perhaps a beginner wouldn’t want to be such a dilettante.
Steve Briggs: Yeah, absolutely it’s a good point. There are pitfalls. I think you want to establish yourself on the path and be consistent, follow, gurus are there for a reason, their advice, they are sages, there’s a reason why they are sages, if you can choose wisely, you should follow as best you can. I have never done what any Guru figures taught me to do perfectly but I’ve tried.
Rick Archer: Yeah, so I’ll come back to Keshava in a minute. A thought popped into my head that for some reason I want to have you comment on this completely, a little bit out of the blue. That is that we live in a community where a lot of people have been meditating for decades and we also have frequented the Amma community where people have been on the path for a long-long time, and you see some people who seem very happy and well-adjusted and they’re doing well. You see other people whose health is deteriorating, they seem mentally unbalanced, even crazy, even though they’ve been meditating for ages, and you wouldn’t hold them up as examples of poster children for the benefits of spiritual pursuit. Do you have any insight or comment as to why there seems to be a fairly significant percentage of people like that?
Steve Briggs: Well, let me step out of our immediate community and answer that question. I think I can because I was reading a book about a Tibetan medical Lama a few weeks ago, actually when I was in San Diego on vacation, just last week it really was. He was this very intuitive medical Lama, and he was very young and monks from around Asia would come to this Tibetan in Lhasa, in the capital of Tibet, Lhasa, and they would come and they were having mental breakdown or they were deranged, or they were frustrated, or they were, why am I angry I’ve been doing this since I was 12 years old? I’ve been a monk, a monastic, and they were coming, and they would test this young Medical Lama and say, tell us what’s wrong with this guy. This Japanese monk came, this Chinese monk came, and he’d say, well that one he’s straining, he’s just straining, he’s not being natural, he’s not listening to what his body is telling him, he’s not living a balanced life, he’s read every scripture known to man but he hasn’t digested, he hasn’t integrated and he’s losing, he’s lost his mind because he hasn’t assimilated what he’s tried to do in his life, so there’s been a fracture. This is exactly how he described it, and this fracture is what’s caused the mental instability. So that was one guy. And then there was an Indian monk, a sadhu, who came, and he was quite arrogant, he was highly versed in the Vedas, and he said all right if you’re so skilled, you tell me what’s wrong with me. He says, sir, I don’t want to tell you because you won’t like it, you’ll be unhappy. He said, no, no, I’m here because I know something’s wrong with me but I want to see if you can tell me what’s wrong. He says, okay, your liver is like weeds are growing uncontrolled. He said, I don’t know the name of this disease and then his mentor, the senior Lama said, it’s called cancer. And this book was written 30/40 years ago, 30 years ago. He said it’s called cancer. He said, well, I don’t want to tell him that because it’ll only put his attention on, it’ll only get worse in his life. He said, no, no, he’s asking you so you have the freedom to tell him. And then Indian sadhu says, well why do I have that? He says, you get angry very fast, and that anger has calcified or metastasized or whatever and it’s affected your emotions, and the emotions, one of the places they deposit themselves is in the liver. So, bring it back to some of the situations, maybe we’re talking closer to home here, people have grown up in Kali Yuga in the United States and you mentioned you’d had a rough situation with your dad maybe. It leaves its residue for people, and we do dissolve a lot of the stress that comes into our life and Amma hugs the person, and she helps, and I think that’s one of the reasons why sometimes people are sobbing because she’s taken away something that’s like been there forever. But these things, the karma, that’s associated with those things they may accelerate, they may work themselves out, may be on that level, but it may best just being too rigid, thinking I have to do something and I’m going to do it and even though I’d rather not do it or someone has told me I have to do it every single day and it’s going against what your heart yearns to do and that, if it metastasized or becomes rigid. That’s one of the things that this young medical lama, he was highly intuitive, as he said I could just see, I could see around the person what the issue is, like lettering practically, telling, his body was saying, I’m unhappy, I’m angry, my liver is stressed, and I can only imagine that people are going through some of those kinds of experiences I really don’t know why. But if we could address ourselves and say, am I feeling content? Am I feeling peaceful? Am I happy in my life? Then I think then things are probably going in the right direction, but if I feel like I’m doing this against my own will or something that might be a problem. I think fear is a factor in people’s health. I remember one astute comment that fear is a prayer we don’t want answered. I think that there is some fear in people’s lives that maybe I’m not going to achieve what I’ve dedicated 40 years to achieving, maybe I won’t get enlightened and that would be unfortunate. I think you’d have to look case-by-case, and I do notice some people say well we live in a chemically infested part of Iowa where the crops are in the water and so on. I don’t, I see healthy people here also. So those are a few possibilities. I do feel that happiness, and I mean, I felt so good getting out to the ocean, getting in the ocean, walking along the ocean, you see that it’s unbounded Pacific Ocean there in San Diego. People had a smile on their face a lot out there, so those are some.
Rick Archer: Yeah, several things came to mind as you’re speaking in addition to the things you said which are good. Diet is a big deal, and some people have very unbalanced diets, maybe they’re eating a lot of starches and sugars and that stuff. Exercise, a lot of people just sit on their butts a lot meditating and looking at their computers and don’t get adequate exercise. Another thing is kind of relationships and social interaction. Sometimes people are in lifestyles where they can get very idiosyncratic, and there’s no one to call them on their stuff. And if you get into marriage or some close relationship, there’s definitely someone to call you on your stuff. It was a bit of a shock for me when I first got married, because I was like straight off this monastic program that I had been on for a long time and so was Irene. I’m grateful for that, and I see old friends who are on that program, who are having a hard time, some of them. There have been some suicides, there been some mental breakdowns and I know these guys, they were brilliant, they had deep experiences, and there was never any kind of, they don’t have the close personal interaction with the Master, where the Master is going to keep whacking you with a stick if necessary and so they’re able to go off on tangents and get farther and farther and farther off with no checks and balances and next thing you know, there’s a serious.
Steve Briggs: There’s that old Vedic analogy, you get in the ashram and all these rocks are put into the tumbler and they’ve got edges and then the Guru starts spinning the tumbler, it’s just like the rocks on the beach in the Pacific Coast. They’re all smooth and round and beautiful and my wife is trying to bring them all back in my suitcase. The suitcase weighed an extra, you know! [laughing] That tumbler effect is there and sometimes when the rough edges are getting smooth, it can be rough for people. There was a sadhu, a reclusive sadhu I met up in a place called Gangotri, which translates as the source of the Ganges at about 10,500 feet in the Himalaya. Honestly, I met him for the most strange reason possible. I was up there, and I was trying to find a Times of India. Why am I looking for that? I’m not going to even say why, but they said there’s a guy up there in a cave named, I can’t think of his name right now, anyway, go up there, knock on his door and he’ll have today’s or yesterday’s Times of India. How? I said, and he said, well, there he gets them. So, I went up there, and I got to the wrong cave and the guy next to it was sitting outside with a big smile on his face, and I said, do you have The Times of India? He goes like this [waving his arms] and he points to the cave next door, but then he picks up a paper and pen and he writes, I am in silence, I don’t speak, and I haven’t spoken for many years, but I’d be happy to write a message back to you if you have any question. And I said, this fellow’s name was Swami Rama Paramantir was his name, and I said, sure I have a question, do you want me to write it to you or do you want to not hear my words? He said, no, you can speak, and he wrote this down and he said that I will answer by paper. And so, he started out by asking me a question, why are you here?
Rick Archer: Well, The Times of India …
Steve Briggs: [laughing] We were laughing, he had sunglasses on. He was sitting out in the bright Sun and about 35 years old. Strong arms, broad shoulders, and I said, I’m a part of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s group and I’m teaching meditation in India for the past so many years to corporate types. He gets his paper. He says, is Maharishi University still in California? And I thought, wow because it started out there, that it started out Santa Barbara, moved to here in Fairfield, Iowa, in 1974-ish, I guess, and I said no it’s not there anymore and then we kind of struck up this dialogue. We went on and he started sharing things with me and I shared things with him. I mention him because when I ultimately got to the next cave where the guy had The Times of India, he said, oh! you probably got sent here by Swami Rama Paramantir. I said, yes, yeah, how would you know. He says, well, we’re neighbors, I know him very well and I come here for the summers, he’s been here seven years without leaving, but Paraman tried to do a shortcut to enlightenment, and it backfired, and he ended up two times in the hospital in Uttar Kashi. it basically caused a huge internal explosion of some sort, and I don’t know the details of what he was trying to do, but I do know that sometimes people want to get to the goal so badly that they abandon the middle way. Intensity is a good thing to a threshold but if we push it too far that I think things can crack. The guy next door who is from Rajasthan, he said he’s been down there twice, and he’s tried to use these yogic techniques. He has a Guru, but his Guru is old. He lives in Uttar Kashi, He very rarely sees him, he’s three hours away and so he’s kind of doing things on his own without the guidance.
Rick Archer: The silence guy?
Steve Briggs: The silence guy. He was doing things on his own and if you read The Value of the Guru and what techniques. Some are very powerful, especially if you get into these techniques that wake up the subtle powerful Shakti inside. I think that’s what he had done and it kind of ran rampant for a bit.
Rick Archer: Good point. And other things can do that – I mean like intensive pranayama if you do too much of it, there’s all kinds of things that can drive you crazy literally if you don’t do it right.
Steve Briggs: You mentioned diet, he was living off of seeds and grain and powdered milk. He was part of a Sannyasi sect that does not cook food. That’s a vow they take. He had a fire but that fire could keep him warm. The Sadhu say, if you meditate by a fire the mantra value of the repetition, Agni is considered the communicator to the Gods in the Vedic tradition, so if you if you meditate by a fire or even a river, it’s more potent than meditating in your bedroom. He had fire but maybe his diet was imbalanced and the winters up in that area are very severe, and he’s all alone and he doesn’t speak. So, he was trying.
Rick Archer: So, safety first. I would say. That was Maharishi’s Master’s motto, safety first. I know that Joan Harrigan in their Kundalini Care Institute in Tennessee. Well, there’s Bonnie Greenwell whom I’m going to be interviewing on 20th October. I have encountered many people who have had deflected risings of Kundalini and have gotten stuck or even in kind of serious problems.
Steve Briggs: Maharishi one time saying, okay, you’re in this boat and we’re going somewhere, stay in the middle of the boat. He says don’t lag in the back of the boat, and don’t try to get in the front of the boat. To be honest when I got to India I thought I want to be in the front of the boat, I want to just get going, and I honestly pushed it to my limits and I don’t say I’ve ever regretted a moment, but I do know that there were times and I thought, well, okay, I got to hold on with both hands, I need to buckle the seatbelt right now, because with these Kali experiences it was kind of really free-flowing, inner experiences and I kind of realized I’ve got to throttle back a tad.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I remember the first time we were told we were going to India, they said, yes, you’re going to India, and it’s going to be intense, and a friend of mine, Larry Keith, would say, oh boy, intense! it’s going to be really intense! Turns out we were in tents, [laughing]
Steve Briggs: In British Army tents. [laughing]
Rick Archer: Right, something like that, with little cots. Let me get back to Keshava. He comes up in both of your books. Explicitly in your first book.
Steve Briggs: In the Memoir, I refer to as Keshava. In the novel, he is referred to as Yogi Raj. Both similar personalities, ageless, could be a thousand years old, few centuries who could say, and who could verify, and I couldn’t. When I met him; you have a question about Keshava?
Rick Archer: You believe that Keshava is Babaji, who is spoken of in Yogananda’s book and Sri M whom I’ve interviewed a couple of times, have met him and Yogananda presents him as this sort of immortal yogi who lives in the Himalayas and sort of shows up from time to time and intercedes in people’s lives. But three times you met him, I believe he appeared in different form each time, but nonetheless you felt it was the same being, because he has this sort of shape-shifting ability apparently.
Steve Briggs: And I want to say he never referred to himself as Babaji.
Rick Archer: Right… just your assumption.
Steve Briggs: Right, my assumption. We can let a listener or an audience kind of formulate their own opinion, I’m perfectly happy with that and I’ll tell a story of my second, my meeting in a different place. I talked about the things he taught me. When I went to Maharishi’s services, Memorial Services in 2008, they were in Prayag, about three hours’ drive from Varanasi or Banaras, some people call it Shiva’s city, maybe the oldest city in the world, the holiest city in India generally. Many, many, many thousands of Indians at the time that they’re ready to pass away, they go to Varanasi to do that and then have their ashes sprinkled on the Ganges. That’s considered a lifetime wish for many people.
Rick Archer: What if you go there and you don’t die? Like Little Big Man, where he gets up on the stage, it’s a good day to die, then it starts to rain and he wakes up and he’s like, I’m not going to die.
Steve Briggs: I am sure there are people who have been living there for years waiting to die, and I’ve seen many of them, and I have seen many corpses being incinerated and I’ve seen all that different it’s quite…
Rick Archer: It’s an industry
Steve Briggs: A shocking experience the first time and it’s also a very powerful one in the positive way. So, we were done with the memorial services and there had been a Swami there who was very highly respected who had come to visit and pay respects to Maharshi. He had an ashram at the Manikarnika Burning Ghats in Varanasi which I had heard about. I had met him at some time in my travels and I wanted to pay and thank him because I didn’t get a chance to see him it at the memorial services, but I wanted, I was so close, I wanted to say hello and greet him. I was making my way with a friend, Will Fox, into the Manikarnika Ghat area and I think they have a hundred cremations a day there, so it’s a big operation. I couldn’t find his ashram and suddenly out of nowhere this extremely handsome or beautiful teenage boy appears in front of me and I said, do you know where Swami Satya Baba lives, his ashram? He says, no, no, I’ll take you where you want to go. And this boy was not only striking, maybe fourteen, maybe fifteen years old, but he was dressed immaculately in a beautiful silk kurta and dhoti. He looked just spectacular as I remember him and he was with three or four or five other boys about his age who were kind of his buddies, his cohorts. And I said, no I’m going to see Swami Satya. I have this fruit with me then he said, no no, I’ll take you where you want to go. He repeated and I said, well where is that? He said follow me. So, we started off up upstream actually, up the Ghats. There are multiple Ghats burning Ghats as you go along, and there are ashrams on the hill and there are temples, and all those things are there. It was very near actually where some of Maharishi’s ashes were deposited in the river and is also where his Guru had been put into the river. What they call Jala Samadhi, water burial. So going past this 10–15-minute walking and walking and there all these huge stone, steps that go down and some of its concrete. It’s just this massive scene at 9:00 p.m. at night, you hear temple bells, and you hear people chanting and it’s just surreal, it’s sort of like you’re by the River Styx in the Greek mythology or something. You’re just walking along and suddenly he says we’re going up there now, so we turned and we’re climbing these steps and we go up to the bluff which is where most of Varanasi is up above the river, you look down onto the river and we’re up on this bluff and now we’re in these awful smelly alleyways that have no lights, no streetlights, street dogs running around sniffing. You’re just thinking this is the worst, this is the worst thing that could possibly have happened. What’s going to happen next? I’m thinking bad things could happen because bad things do often sometimes happen to Westerners who are a little naive or unsuspecting and not careful, nighttime you usually don’t just go up alleys like that in Varanasi, you could get robbed. So, he says, this beautiful Sadhu boy says, you should go into that, at the end of this one alleyway, you should go in there. In there meant through a gate into a two three-story building that looked fairly old and that’s where you want to go. I said, really? I had no idea where we were and we’re in the middle of these alleys and there was no sign in the front. So, I said, really inside? He says, I’ll take you in. So, he let us in, Will was with me, we went inside, he said you should go around the edge of that wall, there was a little partition, a concrete wall there and go in there and sit down and meditate that’s where you want to go. So, he said, just go and so he went in there and around the corner of this wall was a life-size statue of Mahavatar Babaji. I mean, he might have been five feet if he were standing tall according to the way the way he looked and he looked the way he did in the Yogananda’s book, his hair was pulled back and it was, I don’t know what kind of, how it was made, it wasn’t granite, I don’t know. Behind him was a mural of planet Earth and before sitting down to meditate like the boy had instructed us, I went back I said, can I give you some rupees, this is really fascinating because I feel like I know this situation here. He said, no, no, no, I don’t want your rupees and he kind of blew it off and kind of rolled his eyes, you silly guy. It wasn’t disrespectful but I got it. He was kind of humorous about it. Here we go, these guys. He said you go and meditate, and Will and I went and meditated there, and we had literally some of the best experience I could ever remember in forty years. When we got done, in an hour or so, and the boys were long gone, never saw him again, never asked him his name, never knew who his buddies were. But we stayed there for another four or five days, not in that building, but we were staying in a hotel, and we came back two or three more times and the second time we came back was to meditate again. This time there was a lady in there, very friendly lady about 45-50 at the most, and she said can I be of some help and I said, yeah we were led here day or two ago by some gorgeous little beautiful boy and his friends and we were told to meditate by the statue of Babaji and by the way there were two other shrines there, one was a shrine to Lahiri Mahasaya, Babajis disciple, who was Yogananda’s Great Guru and another shrine that had a big, big clot of dirt which said underneath it in English, dirt taken from Babaji’s cave in the Himalayas. So, I said where are we? Because I didn’t know, the boy didn’t tell us, he just said this is where you should meditate and there is some connection to Babaji. She said, I’ll tell you. I am the Great great grand,s grand-niece of Lahiri Mahasaya, and this was his ancestral home, upstairs and down here was more of ashram. I said, really? So, Lahiri Mahasaya, the disciple of Babaji. She said, yes, and if you want to go upstairs you can sit in room where he meditated, and we did and there were his Paduka sandals, the wooden sandals with the pegs, and other personal effects of his and maybe a tiger skin that he meditated. I don’t know there’s some skin there and there were scriptures that were old, sort of really cool. And she said you’re welcome to meditate here for a few minutes, or sit here if you’d like, and she said if there’s anything we can do, we’d be happy to assist you. Then she left. I thought that was very interesting. She said by the way I have cousins and uncles that are Swamis and Gurus in Europe and so on, and so the tradition within our family has been carried on and I just happen to be a relative of Lahiri Mahasaya. So that added a little bit more recognition to what was going on here. If you remember the Autobiography of a Yogi, you remember that Lahiri met Babaji in Ranikhet in the Himalayas where he had been moved in his job position by some help from Babaji and he met Babaji, got some instruction up there and then went from there. So, that was the other encounter, and there was no transfer of knowledge, it was just this experience to meditate here, this is where you want to be. I thought that was interesting, because he was
Rick Archer: Was there a third encounter?
Steve Briggs: Yes, the third encounter was again not physical. There were three encounters in succession in the Himalayas, and I call those one encounter, and then there was this encounter in Varanasi, and the third encounter was perception without the senses type of encounter which we could go into or not go into.
Rick Archer: If you feel it’s significant… otherwise there’s other things we can talk about.
Steve Briggs: He appeared, such a mischievous personality, he appeared as a cat. Not the whole time but a talking cat, he was very…
Rick Archer: Like Alice in Wonderland.
Steve Briggs: Well, okay, and then when he left the session, on a surfboard, he surfed right out of the room.
Rick Archer: So, people keep watching [laughing]
Steve Briggs: I thought I did not force it on you. I ‘m having my moment. I did not want to force any [laughing]
Rick Archer: He’s blushing.
Steve Briggs: I qualified by saying it was perception without the senses, so it could be who knows where, but I have some trust in my inner eye, mind’s eye, whatever you want to call third eye and that was one of them.
Rick Archer: Hmm, well I like cats.
Steve Briggs: That could bring us around a discussion of a perfected siddha, those beings in the world who have the ability to morph, shape-shift is one term that’s kind of used in popular Hollywood movies where these superhero comic characters become super strong, super big, ant-man. I don’t know who they are.
I used to take my tennis team to see those movies because that’s what they wanted to see when we’d go to the state tournament, so they’re relaxed at a movie theater. But I saw that these guys were heroic, and they were able to change form. Well, I think that might be an analogy for some of the things that may even come from a tradition of the yogic tradition in India where certain highly enlightened individuals can perform those
Rick Archer: Yes, I mean there’s all kinds of stories like that and from the yoga tradition of India, Shamans in South America, Carlos Castaneda, all the different cultures have these stories.
Steve Briggs: One of the cool things when we were up in Tibet, again it was me and Will Fox, we were there, and we said where are the really deep lama monasteries. We went to the monastery that supposedly had the records of Jesus coming to Tibet and to India and Hemus, we went to another one called Lamayuru where there were half a dozen places where lamas would go underneath, and they would stay for three years at a time without light. They’d just get one meal a day, and if they didn’t eat for two weeks, then they broke down the wall, and they figured the guy had left his body. So, these are pretty heavy-duty kind of places, but they said the real place was beyond this range of mountains that they pointed to. They said in the winter when no one can get there that’s when they practice levitation. In the summer they come out and they fundraise, and they work with the community, and they do puja.
Rick Archer: Don’t want people to see him.
Steve Briggs: Apparently, but in the winters I can’t even imagine. The snow is as high as the roof and if you haven’t dug out a trail you don’t go anywhere.
Rick Archer: A friend of ours named, Craig Pearson wrote a book about levitation. He’d collected all the accounts of it from around the world and different cultures and everything. There certainly are a lot of accounts. I’ve never seen it and you and I have been for years we practiced the TM Siddhi program with a couple thousand people who are all trying to do it and I never saw an example of it but and there’s all kinds of explanations as to why that never happened. People can think what they want. Personally, I think probably some of these accounts are true, that it’s possible and it’s interesting because it suggests that the human relationship to the laws of nature, such as gravity, is very different than we might think. That sort of suggests that consciousness is so fundamental, not just the product of the brain, but so fundamental that if you can really learn to function at a deep enough level, you can master certain laws of nature that reside there and create all kinds of effects.
Steve Briggs: My better experiences of Liquid Light filling up and kind of propelling me or freeing me to kind of go places that didn’t feel like Fairfield, Iowa. The subjective sensation was I’m free, I could do anything. Obviously, I couldn’t do anything otherwise I would have done it. I would have said, I’d pop in on Rick and say, hey I’m going to win Wimbledon next week, but the conviction and maybe this is where people get kind of fritzed out, the conviction and sensation that in this octave of vibration that I referred to earlier that’s not visible to my eye but was visible to me in that inner state. It was so liberating and so freeing that I felt like when I go back into the six-foot body, I feel like I’m in a prison. And that’s not a negative comment on being in a physical body, because we all chose to do it and there’s so much that we can get from it, so I’m happy, I want to perpetuate, but the freedom I felt in that state, maybe I was just delusional, but I felt like I could pretty much do anything.
Rick Archer: Yeah. I just became aware of someone who has deeply studied Patanjali and also Carl Jung and is an expert and sort of juxtaposing their perspectives. I think I’m going to be interviewing her in a little bit while, down the line. I mentioned Patanjali because the third chapter of the yoga sutras is all about siddhis. Most teachers and people dismiss siddhis as a distraction or a kind of a hang up or side show, but then why did he devote a whole chapter of a four-chapter book to explaining how to do them.
Steve Briggs: Well, I believe they’re deep practices and I believe that the tangible results are not the main show. I think the process of
Rick Archer: Of mastering them
Steve Briggs: Learning to function at the deep levels of consciousness would be valuable.
Rick Archer: Yeah, right. Because obviously an elephant is as strong as an elephant. That’s one of the Patanjali sutras, or a crow can fly, so it’s not the ability to do those things that’s significant, but the sort of development that acquiring the ability to do those things would be kind of real interesting.
Steve Briggs: And even having, if someone had developed them, Keshava has discussed this in conversations with me that, to my mind, he had those abilities. He said once one has mastered those abilities there are only a few circumstances where you would use it. You would never use it to control another person ever, that the consequences will be dire. If you were to get hold of some of those powers without the big picture, could be dire.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I think people become black magicians and so on
Steve Briggs: And if you on the other hand have developed the full perfection of your human nervous system, I’ve seen Amma do things, I’ve seen Maharishi do things that you and I just can’t do, superhuman type stuff, if they are doing it with the intention of helping someone else in the right context with that person or helping the world or seeing a potential catastrophic situation in the world. Amma addresses that many times the way, these dark clouds are gathering children, and let’s intensify our prayer or this or meditation, or she’s seeing something in the future which is a siddhi in itself and then she’s saying we need to avert it. So those kinds of things are proper uses of Patanjali’s, he probably addresses it somewhere in his treatise too.
Rick Archer: He probably does. I imagine. I interviewed Dana Sawyer a couple of times who has been to India 20 times and speaks fluent Hindi and everything. I was asking about Siddhis and whether he had seen any in all his time in India. He said, I never did. He knew all the tricks. I mean you can take a walnut and put it in your armpit and cause your pulse to stop and claim that your heart is stopped, and you can conceal a sponge in your hair and squeeze it and have milk flow down and things like that. He knew all these tricks and he called people on it, these fakers, but he said, I saw one guy who was actually able to swallow a live snake and then regurgitate it. He said that was the most amazing he ever saw. Don’t try this at home. So, before we get too goofy here. We talked earlier about enlightenment and whether such a term is even meaningful because it implies some kind of an endpoint. You mentioned in your notes that some spiritual authorities consider enlightenment to be the beginning rather than the goal of human evolution. There are many people, many masters, teachers, gurus in this world who are supposedly enlightened who did things, who did not seem very enlightened and that’s caused a lot of confusion in people. So maybe we could talk a little bit about that, why so many Gurus seem to screw up and what, whether enlightenment really is sort of an endpoint or actually a beginning point to higher levels of potential Development?
Steve Briggs: There’s a term used in Vedic parlance called Lesha-Vidya which I believe translates as the faint remains of ignorance. It’s my understanding that the faint remains of ignorance remain even in a highly enlightened individual.
Rick Archer: And it’s said that without such faint remains you wouldn’t even be able to function. You need to sort of stay grounded on the Earth, to a certain extent you need to be able to distinguish between a door and wall and things like that.
Steve Briggs: One of the fun lectures I ever heard was an advanced lecture by a friend of mine named Jeff Tepper. He was down in Tucson, Arizona, right in the heart of the Saguaro National Desert. He said if you’re in unity consciousness folks you’re not going to go out in the desert and hug a saguaro cactus. So, you might see everything as one but the practical differentiation of, that’s still a cactus and it can really rip you up if you do the wrong, you don’t walk in front of a bus. So that boundaries need to be there, and they serve a purpose, and that Lesha-Vidya is that…
Rick Archer: Those are practical examples of why it would be good to still perceive duality even though duality might not ultimately be the reality. Then you have Gurus getting involved with sexual escapades and money issues and all kinds of strange things.
Steve Briggs: Yeah. I’m certainly not qualified to address that very well other than that it’s chronicled and in Tibetan tradition, and the yogic tradition, and Yogi’s that we’ve read and admire and gurus. Part of the Lesha Vidya that comes along with being a human being is something called prarabdha karma and that is the suitcase, in theory we all have mountains, Himalayan mountains of karma kind of behind us and we can’t take it all on in this incarnation, but we carry a suitcase of samples of that karma. Maybe I didn’t learn something very fundamental with how to interact with my mother or my wife whatever it might be or women. I mistreated a woman in my past life, or I was a woman I mistreated my husband in the past life. Well that karma I may have to sort it out in this life, and I come in with that suitcase of karma, we all do. The possible exceptions might be those few that we could call Divine Incarnations and I don’t know. I heard so many amazing stories about Amma even as an infant, sitting on her mother’s hands and meditation type of thing, can’t know other than the stories. But the average Jeevan Mukta goes from ignorance when he or she is born and grows into enlightenment and working out the Karma and that suitcase of karma may perpetuate itself a little bit even beyond the stage where they’re fully enlightened. That could be an answer. Maybe as people have said Buddha just walked away from his wife and family at some point.
Rick Archer: Well, they were well taken care of. And they became his disciples, his wife did later on. So, it’s not like he was going out to womanize, he left for a reason, he dedicated himself to something. Ramana stole his brother’s school money.
Steve Briggs: Krishna was the butter thief, and his mother kept saying you can’t keep going to auntie’s house and taking, the butter is a very cherished thing, they make ghee, and they cook with it, and he kept taking it and stealing it, taking it for his friends and the cows in the field, out in the forest and on… All these are lore and legends, but that’s kind of beyond my …
Rick Archer: Even in the Mahabharata for instance there’s stories of Krishna who was supposedly an avatar, kind of cheating, as telling Arjuna to hit, break his leg, hit him below the belt, or lie telling, I think it was Yudhishthira, to lie about who he had just killed, He said Ashwathama, the elephant is dead. And Ashwathama was also the name of the son of Dronacharya. They told the white lie and his chariot wheel sunk in the mud.
Steve Briggs: All the ethics about Vedic warfare which you don’t fight after dark and all these things you don’t do and these are “underhanded” things. They were tricks. Well, I think mistakes can be made, and I remember hearing Maharishi tell the story that he made a substantial mistake when he was a young brahmachari who had been out of the Himalayas for some years because Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister around 1980,
Rick Archer: Is that when she started?
Steve Briggs: Somewhere in there. He’d been out for some time, but the story he told was that it was a mistake on his part that he was sitting in a room when she was coming in to be received with an audience. Everyone in India would stand up for the Prime Minister. Maharishi said I couldn’t make myself stand. I just didn’t stand, and he said it was taken note of by not only her but her Sycophant, and all the people around her and the way I understand it is that the Congress party which she ruled for a long time and then her son Rajiv ruled and then her son’s wife Sonia was the head of the Congress party and on and on, so this went on for 30 years. It always created problems for him because of that one initial incident.
Rick Archer: He did some other things too that might be construed as mistakes, but I guess the deeper, broader question is – is there a tight correlation between higher states of consciousness or the highest state of consciousness
Steve Briggs: And moral decision making?
Rick Archer: And ethical behavior. And some say, no, no, none whatsoever. You can be enlightened ex murderer or something. Others say, yeah there’s a correlation but it’s loose. I bring it up too often for some people’s tastes just because there’s so many examples of it. In fact, I’ve been involved in helping to establish the association of professional spiritual teachers and I will be presenting that at the SAND conference which has a code of ethics, such as the AMA or the American Psychological Association would have, that teachers could perhaps aspire to and that students could take it as an example of what to expect in a teacher.
Steve Briggs: Well, I would say one general thing. I don’t know if we’re kind of uncles at this point to a younger spiritual, but we’ve been around the block at least. I mean I’ve learned meditation as a teenager, and all that, I’m sure you did the same and became a teacher of meditation as a teenager. I would say don’t be in a hurry. Even our grand Guru Swami Brahmananda Saraswathi, what did he do, he searched for 3-4 years, did he not?
Rick Archer: Left home at the age of eight or nine and it was about five years traveling up the Ganges.
Steve Briggs: And he interviewed.
Rick Archer: Yeah, he interviewed.
Steve Briggs: He had three, several requirements that he wanted to be, were non-negotiable for him. So, he took
Rick Archer: His time finding a teacher. Someone who met the criterion.
Steve Briggs: I think that would be some advice I would give that there are many, many people in India and other parts of the world who would consider themselves Guru and are venerated as Gurus. Not necessarily people that I would look to in that role, but I also feel that there are highly, highly qualified people, and I would certainly put Amma in that group. I have yet to find that her practical knowledge and her example of a saint, they’ve really been impressive.
Rick Archer: Yeah, all right we won’t dwell on this point too much longer. Perhaps just to say that people have a tendency to see their Guru as perfect and divine and totally enlightened and all that. It’s good to respect your teacher and to even feel devotion for your teacher, but one should never abdicate one’s own judgment and discrimination. Even the Buddha said that, he said, don’t believe something just because I said it. You have to sort of figure it out on your own and make, so if you see somebody doing something and you think, well it seems wrong to me, but they’re so highly evolved, what do I know, that’s not the right way to look at it.
Steve Briggs: Jesus said it many times in different ways, beautiful phrases, trust your higher self, that’s a paraphrase for how he would have phrased it, but I think Divine wisdom is what we’re all after. Divine experience, Divine consciousness, a Divine permanency about our life that, I think it’s in the DNA that at a certain stage that DNA gets activated. We first read about it, first I read Siddhartha, you read Siddhartha, then we started poking around, maybe we get off the track, marijuana maybe that will provide the answer and then this will provide the answer. But waking up to just that understanding that there is a higher state that’s awakening in itself, and then the next step is to actually taste the fruits of consciousness growing. Then seeing the benchmarks that some senior people have written about in the past, Ramakrishna whoever, or scriptures have been, elucidate this sort of thing, and then hopefully we can find it and tap into it and trust, truly trusting your own inner wisdom and the higher self that is there to guide us. I’ve said this many times in different context that it’s my experience that there is a quality of higher self that moves with us from incarnation to incarnation, and it doesn’t really get down in the mud. We’re down in the mud finding our way, but it. We go through many incarnations hundreds, and not even know that there’s such a thing that would guide us consciously, but it may still be guiding us subconsciously or in a dream or in some other way and that when we start to get to a state of full awakening, full realization, we are getting closer to that perfect template that resides in us, above us, where we don’t need to talk in terms of spatial relationships. But we start to become one with it and that’s when I think the game of evolution really gets interesting.
Rick Archer: Yeah, there was a charming, wonderful woman named Peace Pilgrim, who wandered around the United States with nothing but the clothes on her body and just totally relied upon the kindness of strangers to subsist for a long time. Wore a t-shirt or a sweatshirt that said Peace Pilgrim. Anyway, she in her little book, which is beautiful, she talks about how at a certain stage there’s a degree of awaking where the individuality is pretty much out of the way and not interfering or trying to conduct the process of evolution. She said then it really takes off because as long as our limited human efforts are trying to orchestrate that we’re kind of like handicapping God in a way.
Steve Briggs: Sometimes two steps forward, one back and all.
Rick Archer: Yeah.
Steve Briggs: Well, Maharishi did make a comment one time that evolution really begins in cosmic consciousness. I do remember that phrase. Speaking of what is kind of wandering around and letting nature provide for you. I had a; I think it’s a fun encounter in South India once upon a time. This is in 1982, was on another project prior to this teaching to corporate executives. That came later. And we were directed by some German friends, you must go to Kanyakumari, which is a very holy little temple at the very southern tip of the subcontinent where the three seas meet – the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal, all converge there. This is a Devi temple there. It’s a very holy place, to a certain aspect of the young girl aspect of the Divine Mother, unmarried, virgin aspect. Living next to the temple was this Avadhoot. An Avadhoot is a yogini, she was a yogini who doesn’t ever cook or provide for herself or anything. Whatever someone hands her, if insect crawls along she might make that, might be her meal. It’s kind of bizarre, but she was famous, she was venerated. People would come to see her. Saints would come from the Himalayas to see her, we were told, and we were also told by the local fishing community, Kanyakumari is a fishing community, that she was frequently seen floating on driftwood out in the ocean when the tides would go out, and she looked ancient. Her skin was totally leathery. She had just a little bit of cloth for her attire and when we were there, she was there. She was not floating in the ocean, and we were told to bring bunches of bananas. So, we came with these bunches of bananas and as we came, dogs started to come, like 20-30 dogs started to kind of hang out there because, we found out later why. So, she came out, didn’t speak, but she looked ancient, we were told she was centuries old, who could say, she just looked very, very weathered. Her eyes though kind of told the story, they were to me brilliant, but anyway we were told by this one person that was helping take care of her at the time, you should peel the bananas and break off pieces and give the peeled banana to her. Her name was Mayi Amma. So, we gave these, we had huge bunches of these red bananas, very tasty, and she started breaking off a piece, and giving, say to Rick and then she break off another piece and there was a dog between Rick and Steve, but she gave it to the dog. Then she’d break off another piece and her same hand, it was in this street dog’s mouth was now going in my mouth and then it was going into the next guy’s mouth and the next dog’s mouth. She kept repeating this cycle over and over and we were just like the dogs, and we had no understanding, anything. We were just fortunately just doing as we were kind of instructed to do and she just fed us for like 20 minutes bite here, bite here, dog, person, dog, person around and around. It was quite a fascinating experience, because as she came to hand it, you looked her in the eye, and I always felt like well there is something behind those eyes that are not, just not some old village lady. That was our experience with Mayi Amma, and then at some point later on I met a Swami who had lived for I believe a decade at 15,000 feet without coming down much, up above Gomukh, Gangotri, a place called Tapovan. He lived up there in a very sparse and austere conditions. His name is Swami Rama Kripalu. He told the story that he had gone down to Kanyakumari to have the darshan of this yogini, this avadhoot yogini, and he said when he got down there, she wasn’t there. That he had heard that she was out in the ocean, and he was told that she didn’t float around on driftwood, she just lived in the ocean, which was a stretch, but having been in India I was willing to accept anything if they can prove it at least, come close to proving. He said that he prayed to her and prayed to her and prayed to her and after a couple of hours she came walking out of the ocean, and as she did, as she came, the dog, the population of the dogs in the village all were on the beach, and when she got onto the sand, the dogs just converged on her like bees on the hive. He couldn’t even see her. And then the same ritual that we had gone through happened again. He was told to give her a banana and she would do the right, called Prasad, give the blessing that’s how she blessed people. And Rama Kripalu, Swami from the Himalayas said she gave the dog a bite and then the next dog a bite and then she was about to put it in my mouth, and he said, I put my hands up and that really disturbed her, and she slapped him, hit him, slapped him really hard across the face. At that instant he knew exactly the mistake he’d made. He’s a high Brahmin by birth, and Brahmins don’t do anything with dogs. We all have pets as dogs, but he then realized his mistake. I can’t remember whether he kind of rebounded and said, yes, please give me, that part alludes my mind, my memory, but anyway he told us it was a big lesson for him. That his arrogance of being somehow too high of a soul to do this was a mistake.
Rick Archer: Too prissy. Yeah, there are stories of Shankara with dogs and sort of
Steve Briggs: Yudhisthira with his dog.
Rick Archer: Yeah, there’s that one, and at the end of the Mahabharata, but also, I think Shankara, was it Shankara who encountered some dog on the road, and he was like get away from me dog, and then it turned out it was Lord Shiva disguising himself as a dog?
Steve Briggs: These are the kind of tests, the cosmic…
Rick Archer: Humility.
Steve Briggs: There was one other little story that involved in Amma devotee who had gotten restless. Amma’s Ashram is only two hours from that place in Kanyakumari, at most two and half hours, I believe, out in the backwaters in Kerala. He got restless as people have happened when they sit in the ashram and so he went on a pilgrimage without telling anyone, including not telling Amma, and he went down to this place and had this same Saints darshan. Again, he did the same thing that Swami Rama Kripalu did, he rejected the Prasad. Just thinking this doesn’t have to, we don’t need to do this, I just wanted to see you, have your darshan. He goes back to Amma’s ashram and within a day or two, he’s developing a huge stomach problem, he’s like cramping in big pain and it really feel serious to him. He goes to Amma and said, Amma, I’m having a horrible problem in my stomach, I feel really sick and Amma very innocently, using her greater omniscient capacity I’m imagining, said, Son, did you go on a pilgrimage recently? Yes, Amma, I did, I was so restless. She said, I understand. Did you go to Kanyakumari, this place and have Prasad from some saintly person, and he goes, yes, Amma I was there. She said, Son, did you take, accept the Prasad, and he told the story of the dogs and so Amma goes, son, you need to go immediately directly back to her and accept her blessing because it was a blessing, and then I think things will be fine, and things were fine. So, he didn’t tell her the story. She just saw; however, she saw, and that’s an example in my mind of how a saint uses their consciousness to help a person in a tight spot.
Rick Archer: Yeah, and I mean it’s also an example of how things aren’t necessarily as they appear and they don’t necessarily conform to our structured notions of what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s good, what’s bad, what’s pure, what’s impure and so on. There was a story in my interview, the last week with a fellow who told the story about how these two wealthy women from New York City went to see Edgar Cayce back in the day when he was.
Steve Briggs: That would have been interesting.
Rick Archer: Yeah, they were very wealthy women. So, they went down there, and they said,
Steve Briggs: In Virginia Beach?
Rick Archer: Virginia Beach. Edgar, we have this brother who inherited a third of the fortune, we have the other two-thirds. He squandered it; he now lives under a bridge in New York City. We don’t know what to do. If we give him any more money, he’ll squander that, so we’re stuck. Edgar Cayce went into a trance and when he came out, he said, this man who lives under the bridge is probably the most highly of all persons I’ve ever done a reading on. And he’s agreed to take on this role in order to teach you two a lesson, I guess, or to serve some kind of function in your karmic dynamics, the three of you agreed upon before you came into this life. So, anyway I just tell the story, probably people who listen to BatGap regularly heard it last week. But it’s an example of how we shouldn’t be so cocksure of judgmental about the way things are and kind of be a little bit more pliable.
Steve Briggs: Absolutely
Rick Archer: And not jump to conclusions.
Steve Briggs: Keshava, one time said to me, he said there is more love than oxygen on this earth, but who would know it. He said, if you just don’t make any assumption about this person’s status in life, maybe they irritate you, maybe, at least have a neutral outlook toward them and your friends you love, your family you love. Your enemies, there’s a lesson there, but just take a neutrality as far as you go. If the person is approaching you with a knife, you don’t say, hey, please hug me. It’s like that story in the Buddha tradition it said, if I fed myself to the first tiger that come along, he’s going to be hungry again tomorrow, so you don’t feed yourself to a tiger just because the animal is hungry. You have to look at all angles of the circumstance, maybe.
Rick Archer: Yeah, well, there are many more things that you and I could talk about, I’m sure. We didn’t even get into the whole thing about absolute body, rainbow body, all that stuff, but we’ve been going on for quite a while, and we alluded to that kind of thing. So, are you working on any more books?
Steve Briggs: The novel stands on its own, as a piece of fiction, but I have the rough draft, it’s called the Nirvana Chronicles, so I have a rough, about 200 pages of a rough draft, to book two and a full outline to book three. I want to see the traction and the enthusiasm. I’ve had some lovely reactions. I have a neighbor who asked if he should read. I said, yeah, read, you’d probably enjoy it. He read it three times.
Rick Archer: Wow.
Steve Briggs: I don’t know why he read it three times. He said, I loved it, and this morning I got an email from a monk in Germany, saying I just read the other one, India: Mirror of Truth, and he said, thank you so much for opening my heart to India because I hadn’t had that feeling about India prior to reading that. So, I love to write, and I will probably continue on with the trilogy. I just had kind of interlude here.
Rick Archer: Well, my problem is I interview somebody every week.
Steve Briggs: And everyone gives you, their book.
Rick Archer: The guy who is coming up next has about 500 pages worth of stuff, and I don’t usually get through it all but we’ll see. I’d like to finish it. I was really enjoying the story. And so those of you who have time to read, you might enjoy these books, and I’ll link to them both from Steve’s page on batgap.com.
Steve Briggs: Well, I want to mention as a wrap-up for the books that the first book was just mostly started with letters to friends back in the States. When I met Keshava, he said, write your book, and I said, I don’t have a book in mind. He said, no, no, start writing and see. So, he kind of pushed me into that one and then I finished it, and then in the encounter with him when I referred to him as appearing as a cat, at that time he suggested, try your hand at fiction. I said, fiction? So, there we have it and I don’t know, I mean in a sense the thrill and the joy, and the creativity of writing was plenty reward for me. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Rick Archer: It is fun when you’re in the groove and you’re writing something.
Steve Briggs: You are in the zone.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Get in the zone. By the way, finishing where we started, talking about the zone.
Steve Briggs: There you go…
Rick Archer: All right, well, thanks Steve.
Steve Briggs: Thanks for having me, I appreciate it.
Rick Archer: It’s been good, and maybe we’ll do another one, maybe when volume 2 comes out or something, get into other topics.
Steve Briggs: A pleasure and an honor to talk about any of these topics.
Rick Archer: Yeah, so thank you to those who’ve been listening or watching. You’ll find a link to, well there will be a page about Steve in this interview, on batgap.com, a link to his books, and do you want to be in touch with people, do you have time to like to correspond?
Steve Briggs: I make the time, I got this email from the German guy this morning, and I took the time, I want to take the time. If I have thousand suddenly in my box, then it would take me more time, but I will still take the time because I feel like this is.
Rick Archer: Is contact info on your website or how to contact you?
Steve Briggs: Yeah, the website has an email address, and I believe it’s this one that’s on my book also.
Rick Archer: All right, well, since you’re putting it around on your book, I’ll also put it on your BatGap page as well as the link to your website and if people want to get in touch, they can.
Steve Briggs: Yeah, absolutely, and it’s not anything to do with finances with this, it would be just my pleasure, if there’s a question or something I’m not going to say okay you’ve got twenty minutes of my time now, pay me up PayPal for this. It’ll just be as best I can do as a fellow traveler on the spiritual path.
Rick Archer: Okay, great well, thanks. Thank you, appreciate it, great. Thanks to those who’ve been listening or watching. See you. for the next one. [Music]