Culadasa (John Yates, Ph.D.) – Buddha at the Gas Pump Interview

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Culadasa (John Yates) – BATGAP Interview April 5, 2017 {BATGAP theme music plays} Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series
of interviews with spiritually awakening people. I have conducted 394 of them as of today,
and if this is new to you and you would like to check out more of these, go to
and look under the ‘Past Interviews’ menu and you’ll find all the previous ones organized
and categorized in 4 or 5 different ways. This program is made possible by the support
of appreciative listeners and viewers. If you appreciate it and feel like supporting
it, there’s a ‘Donate’ button on every page of the site. My guest today is Culadasa – John Yates PhD
is his original name. He is the director of Dharma Treasure Buddha
Sangha outside Tucson, Arizona, and he is the author of the book The Mind Illuminated:
A Complete Mediation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science for Greater Mindfulness. He is a meditation master with over 4 decades
of experience in Tibetan and Theravadan Buddhist traditions. Culadasa also taught physiology and neuroscience
for many years. He combines the original teachings of the
Buddha with an emerging scientific understanding of the mind to give students a rich and rare
opportunity for rapid progress and profound insight. So welcome, good to see you. Culadasa: Good to see you, thank you for having
me here. Rick: Yeah, you know, probably 100 times while
doing these interviews I’ve quoted the quote: “Awakening is an accident but continued
practice will make you accident prone,” and I always just said, “Some Zen guy said
that but I don’t know who it was,” but I discovered it was you! Culadasa: Yeah, and I’m not sure I’m the
first person that ever said that or the only person, but yeah. Rick: Yeah, it’s a great little quote, very
handy. Much to the ire of the nonpractice folks who
say that you’re already enlightened and you don’t need to do anything. Culadasa: Well it kind of allows room for
them too, they can have accidents too. Rick: It’s true, yeah. Like a friend of mine said, “You might win
the lottery, but don’t make it your retirement plan.” Culadasa: Exactly, yeah. Rick: So you have a long and extensive background
in meditation. I know you learned TM and did that for a couple
of years back in 1970 and you’ve studied a lot of other things. It’s usually useful and interesting before
we get into the meat of what you’re doing and teaching now, to just get a little of
a chronological sketch of the significant highlights
of your path. People always find that they can tune into
the person better if they have a sense of what he’s been through, and in many cases
they can relate to a lot of the same things. Culadasa: That’s a good point. It’s kind of hard to know how far to go
back but I did have a rather major experience when I was in my teens, around 15 years old,
that made me realize that the conventional truth and reality that I had grown up believing
was truth and reality really wasn’t, and that pretty much everybody had their own view
of what was real and what wasn’t. And so that set me on my path as a truth-seeker. I’ve been a truth-seeker all my life. Rick: What triggered that experience? I mean, what was the nature of it? Culadasa: Well that gets into a lot of personal
detail; I’ll give you a rough sketch. I grew up in a very difficult household, my
mother had some psychological problems and my father had severe PTSD, or that’s what
they call it now, from World War 2. Rick: Sounds like you’re describing my life. Culadasa: Oh is that right? Rick: Yeah, same thing. Culadasa: So it was a very traumatic childhood
with physical abuse on one side and a way- overprotective mother who was also not entirely
in touch with conventional reality. And so as an adolescent I discovered that
the views I’d absorbed from her weren’t really in sync with the more commonly shared
views of my peers, and that was extremely traumatic and it led to my essentially letting
go of all views, trying to discover what was true and then coming to an almost equally
upsetting realization that everybody was living in their own private reality; it wasn’t
just my mother, she was just in a more extreme case of it. And so it was a very emotionally traumatic
period. The result was that I left home, I dropped
out of school, I never even went to high school even though I ended up eventually getting
a PhD, and I left home when I was 15. So I had something of an unusual [time of]
early years of my life. Rick: Yeah, you’re still describing my life
– leaving home, dropping out of high school. Culadasa: Really!? Rick: Brothers from another mother, they say. Culadasa: Wow! That is totally amazing, yes. Rick: And the whole thing about perspective
– realizing that everybody sees the world differently – or me that was triggered by
my first LSD experience, and especially going into a Dunkin Donuts in the morning and seeing
the lady selling the donuts and realizing, “Wow, what they’re actually perceiving
in this situation is so different than what I’m
perceiving!” It was the first time I realized that the
world is not just the same for everybody. Culadasa: Yes, the means by which you reached
it were different but you had the same experience. Well, my father was a research scientist,
he was a chemist and he was also person who was interested in a lot of other things. He was an amateur astronomer and he dabbled
in physics in his spare time and things like that, so I was exposed to a lot of science. So the two directions that appeared to me
in my adolescence as possible avenues for truth-seeking were science and philosophy. And I’m probably a bit unusual in that I
read a lot of Kant and Kierkegaard and Husserl and people like that, and I was drawn to phenomenology
since phenomenology was basically saying what I’d already discovered in my teens. But anyway, then spirituality and religion
– and the only religion I knew because of where I grew up was Christianity, and from
what I knew about Christianity is that the Catholic Church was the mother church. And so I ended up becoming a Catholic and
spending a couple of years as a seminarian thinking that this is one source of … and
at the same time I was at a Catholic university and I was studying sciences – I was studying
physics, chemistry, biology – and so it was like I was trying to cover all the bases. Rick: Right, hedging your bets. Culadasa: Yeah, hedging my bets … and philosophy
as well. And I became extremely disillusioned with
Catholicism and the more I learned about Church history and Church theology the more I realized
… well I have to say, I had become acquainted with Meister Eckhart and Teresa of Avila and
John of the Cross and the Cloud of Unknowing, and I thought that’s what I was going to
find. You know, you become a seminarian and you’re
going to really get into … and no wait … that just wasn’t part of it. I was very disillusioned and that happened
in the 60s. And so I dropped out of the seminary and dropped
into the world of [inaudible] and LSD and mescaline and all those kinds of things. And so that really broke me out of the box
that I had been in and really expanded the scope of my search , which then became … I
still felt science had some great promise but spirituality now appeared to be a very
appealing avenue to follow. And I became acquainted with Eastern religions
and I actually discovered the Advaita Vedanta Society in Chicago and I ordered a bunch of
books from them. And I tried to teach myself meditation from
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras … I mixed up my Sanskrit, I do that all the time. Yeah, and that didn’t work out
too well and I ended up getting into university through some amazing good fortune and doing
my PhD, and that’s when I encountered a Buddhist
teacher. And I had been, as you mentioned, doing TM
for a couple of years and I hadn’t had a lot of luck teaching myself meditation using
the material from the Vedanta Society, which is really no surprise – I had no teacher,
no idea where to find one. And then when the Beatles brought Maharishi
and TM became available and I started meditating, and all of a sudden I did something that worked,
and I was excited about that. So I was going to become a TM teacher, and
back in those days the first step was you became a TM checker and then there was a whole
series of things. I was on my way in the particular path when
I happened upon Buddhism, and my first teacher was Kamananda. He was a lay teacher at that point, although
he had spent a number of years in monasteries in Southeast Asia, and he was student of Namgyal
Rinpoche. And this is an interesting part of the story
because this is my lineage. Namgyal Rinpoche was born
‘George Dawson’ in Canada, and I was living in Canada at the time. He had gone to Southeast Asia and was ordained
as Ananda Bodhi, and he became quite advanced and was recognized within the Theravada tradition. He was sent to Britain to establish meditation
centers there and if you recall, this was the early 60s when he was sent, and Buddhism
was pretty new to all Western culture – Britain, Europe, USA, and in the U.S., people who knew
about Buddhism at all mostly knew Zen and Alan Watts and things like that. Anyway, Ananda Bodhi set a meditation center
first in London and then one in Scotland, which later became Samye Ling, a Tibetan center. But then he returned to Canada and part of
his teaching style was he would take his students on these journeys, and one of their journeys
took him to Sikkim and to the residence of the Karmapa, where the Karmapa recognized
Ananda Bodhi as the tulku of Namgyal Rinpoche. Rick: What does that mean? Culadasa: A tulku is a reincarnation, so he
was the reincarnation of the Namgyal Rinpoche. And so Ananda Bodhi re-ordained with the Karmapa
and took up the study of Tibetan Buddhism and teaching it. And so that particular lineage is one that
has combined both Tibetan and Theravadan teachings and
then ultimately, through my teachers, it expanded beyond that so that pretty much every branch
of Buddhism has been explored by one of my teachers. Jodi Dama, who I met when he was a bhikkhu,
he has since disrobed and lives in Vancouver … a wonderful person. Anyway, I met Kamananda, he was my first teacher
and actually, I had a sitar that I had bought from another graduate student, he was East
Indian and gone back to India, got married, and his wife received an expensive sitar for
a wedding present. The main core got smashed on the airplane
on the trip back to Winnipeg. I bought it from him for $20, which was a
fortune for a graduate student in those days, and had no idea what I was going to do with
it. Kamananda played a musical instrument called
the surbahar, which is basically a larger version of a sitar. And he was performing one night in Winnipeg’s
first vegetarian restaurant – this would have been about
1971, I think – and I recognized the similarity. I didn’t know anything about the robes he
was wearing but I recognized the instrument he was playing, and so on the break I said,
“I have a sitar that’s broken and can you teach me how to repair it and learn to
… can you look at it and tell me if it’s repairable and then teach me how to play it?” And it turned out that he had a center that
he had set up on the Cenaboy River in Winnipeg, it was in this beautiful old mansion, and
this whole community lived with him. So he gave me the address and he said, “Come
next Thursday and bring your sitar.” So I brought my sitar with the pieces in the
bag, and over a series of weeks where I went there and we painstakingly reconstructed this
sitar, he sat and talked to me about Buddhism and I found it extremely interesting. And one thing in particular he said to me
was that the Buddha had said, “Don’t believe anything, don’t take it on any authority,
including my authority. Don’t take anything that I teach you.” And I was like,
“Okay!” I mean, at this point I’m a scientist, at
this point I’m a graduate PhD student doing science, writing papers, so it’s like, “Okay,
this is the spirituality that’s for me when some teacher says that.” And so I became involved in Buddhism and as
they say, Kamananda was a student of Namgyal and so he was teaching the Mahasi style Vippasana
at the same time that he was doing the Kagyu teachings, and then I started doing meditation
retreats with him. Rick: Did you find it difficult to transition
from TM to the Buddhist meditation was it actually better suited to your nature and
easy to shift? Culadasa: Well actually I found the Mahasi
style Vippasana extremely difficult but I stuck with it for a little over a year, and
that’s when my second teacher, Jodi Dama, returned from Southeast Asia and he was still
ordained as a bhikkhu. He was also Canadian-born but he spent many,
many years and he was quite an accomplished practitioner. And I discussed with him my problems with
the Vippasana meditation that Kama was teaching me and he said, “Well, do you realize that
that’s a new method; that was just invented in the late 19th Century. Why don’t you try a much more traditional
method?” and so he taught me Samatha Vippasana and that was it, that was it. Rick: Is it appropriate to ask at this point
what the mechanics of that were, or would you rather move on
and you’ll have your own explanation of how you teach meditation and everything? Culadasa: I’m not sure what your question
is. Rick: The Samatha Vippasana that you just
mentioned, is it worth discussing how that worked and why it was easier for you or is
that just a side note? Culadasa: No, actually I think it’s quite
relevant because with the Samatha training, you’re training stability of attention at
the same time you’re developing mindfulness. And in the dry Vippasana tradition, in the
Mahasi tradition, there is a tendency for all the tendency to poo-poo anything to do
with concentration, attentional stability … “You don’t need stable attention,
all you need is momentary concentration” – kanika Samadhi it’s called. And the method itself, you’re probably familiar
with that particular method. Rick: I don’t know Buddhism as well as I
would like to so don’t assume that I know anything, and who
knows whose listening to this and what they know? Culadasa: Right, yeah. Well the much more traditional approach was
to develop Samatha, which usually gets translated as serenity or a calm abiding or things like
that – Samatha and pali-Samatha in Sanskrit – and it’s that you are basically training
the mind as an instrument for insight and awakening. And the Vippasana or insight comes along with
it, that’s why it’s called Samatha Vippasana. And the reason that the Mahasi noting method
is referred to as ‘dry insight’ is that it totally eschews the Samatha component and
the attentional stability. Whether it was because I had started out with
TM or whether it’s just inherently … and this is my opinion and of course my friends
Daniel Ingram and Daniel Boutemy and a few other people, and I think Joseph Goldstein
would agree but there’s a few others who might not – that it is much more powerful
to do it this way, to develop these various mental skills before you dive in to try and
trigger insight experiences. But anyways, it worked for me. Rick: Okay, and as we go along hopefully we
will define some of these terms a little bit more clearly, like
‘insight’ – exactly what that means, and so on. Because we shouldn’t assume that I for one
understand fully what you mean by these terms, and listeners
may not either. Culadasa: Alright, I’m sorry. I’ll try to stay on track here for the audience. Rick: Let’s just define our terms as we
go along so people can stay with us. So now … I guess I haven’t told you this,
I not only practiced TM but I’m also a TM teacher for over 25 years. And although I no longer do that, there is
a sort of mechanics that I keep comparing with the mechanics of other things I hear
which seem very effective to me, and that is the logic that the mind has a natural tendency
to seek a field of greater happiness, and you yourself
say that someplace … I have some quote from it here … oh,
here you go, “If an object is important or interesting enough, attention remains stable. If something else
is judged more important or interesting then the balance tips, attention moves elsewhere.” So Maharishi used the same kind of example,
that if we’re sitting here and some beautiful music starts playing, our attention will shift
to it. And his logic was that the deeper levels of
awareness, pure consciousness if you will, are inherently blissful – Ananda – and
if the mind can be given an opportunity to move in that direction it will do so effortlessly. And so it sounds like there’s a whole spectrum
of Buddhist practices, from something similar to that – very effortless, natural, no concentration
or control – to things which are quite arduous and use
a lot of concentration and which seem to contradict that
logic of ‘the mind has a natural tendency and we should cooperate with it rather than
fight it.’ So perhaps – it would help me anyway and
perhaps be useful for other people to just – explain the mechanics of meditation as you
practiced it, and practice it and teach it, and the logic of why you do so, why it’s
done that way. Culadasa: Yes, I think here is where the term
‘the middle way’ applies, as it does to so many different sayings, because there are
meditation practices which involve what I would consider to be an excessive degree of
concentration. And here we come to a very important distinction,
maybe I can creep up on this idea a little bit. Okay, so somebody tells you, “Here is your
meditation object” – whether it’s a candle, or breath to nose, or kasina, or Buddha image,
or whatever it is – “here is your object” – let’s say it’s breath to nose – “I
want you to focus on breath through the nose to the exclusion of everything else.” And so you feel from that instruction, you
have the impression that your goal is to achieve a state where there is nothing else in your
consciousness except that, and that you’re making progress to the degree that there’s
very, very little else in your consciousness. There may be things in the background that
intrude, there may be thoughts that come up, but if you can keep them as far away as possible
until they disappear, until there’s just nothing there but your meditation object,
that you’ve achieved the practice. Now, if you enter into that state it is very
pleasant, it is very blissful, but as I’ve discovered, it’s a dead end. You can sit there in this blissful state and
when you come out of it you carry that pleasant, peaceful, tranquil state with you. You’re also a bit fuzzy minded for a while,
but after a little while you come back to “normal” and it was a really nice experience,
and when the time comes around to meditate again, if you achieve a skill in doing this,
you can enter into it again, but that’s excessive concentration and it’s not going
to lead you anywhere. Now the other side of this is to develop this
hyper-alert kind of awareness so that you really notice every little thing that … when
a thought comes up, you notice the thought comes up and you notice the thought passes
away, and there’s a sound, there’s sensation – you just notice it coming, you notice
it going. Now that, that’s not so much a dead end
but it leaves you with … you haven’t really developed all your mental faculties to the
degree that you can. And both of these things are very difficult
to achieve, people practice for years and years in either one of these methods without
succeeding. So the method
that I’m talking about is one that takes a completely different approach and says that
we have two ways of knowing things: we have attention, which
focuses in. And we’re very used to using attention and
we can choose what we pay attention to, but as you quoted from my book, our attention
also is going to move independently because it is always looking for something interesting
or important, a potential source of pleasure or pain to avoid. And whatever it focuses on it wants to analyze
and it does so at the expense of everything else; you become very preoccupied. The other thing, the other way we have of
knowing is we have this expansive field of conscious awareness that we live in, and attention
is really like … if you could compare that to a floodlight that’s illuminating. Like you’re in this pitch dark night and
you have this powerful floodlight that’s illuminating this large area in front of you,
and then you have this spotlight that you can shine on anything in the floodlit area. So you see something in the floodlit area
that looks interesting and so you shine your spotlight. It’s like those things they sell … the
gazillion gigawatt lights that you can see things a mile away, that’s what attention
is like. It shines on one thing in particular and then
you notice something else in the field of your conscious awareness and you can move
your attention to that, or something else happens in the field of your conscious awareness
and so your attention goes to that. But we have these two different ways of knowing
that are operating simultaneously. Now I didn’t know this during most of the
time that I was learning to meditate, and so I never quite knew, was I supposed to be
aware of all this stuff while I was practicing concentration on my breath, or was I supposed
to make that go away? Or conversely, was I supposed to just mostly
be in this place of awareness and the spotlight of attention was problematic? Well what happened was that I sort of intuitively
realized that both of these things should be there and that they actually work together,
and that I was a much more fully present person. This is one of those things that my teachers
and the books I’d read – and Kaman and Jodi weren’t my only teachers, I also attended
retreats with other teachers – and everybody was always stressing “being present.” And it became really obvious to me that when
I was most present was when I was using both attention and awareness, although at that
time I didn’t have the words to articulate it the way I do now. I realized that when I have this more full
experience of the present, including what was going on inside my own mind, that that
was when things seemed most right. And we haven’t talked about what insight
is or awakening, but I had already learned at a very thorough level that this is really
what I was looking for, and this seemed to me the place that I was going to find insight,
was fully developing my conscious powers, not one aspect of them at the expense of the
other. Rick: Okay, let me interject a couple of questions
here or would I interrupt your train of thought?. Culadasa: No, go right ahead. Rick: So one thing with regard to focusing
during meditation. Let’s say you take two 5-year old kids and
you sit them down in two separate rooms in front of televisions, and you make one of
them watch Meet the Press, but maybe you promise cake if they’ll watch it for an hour, and
the other gets to watch SpongeBob Squarepants – which one is going to be focused on the
TV most effortlessly? Culadasa: The kid watching CNN, of course! Rick: Yeah, right. And so the implication here is that different
objects of attention may have different abilities to spontaneously and naturally enable our
attention to be focused on them. Maybe a candle isn’t the most alluring thing
to give one’s attention to, maybe even the breath isn’t the most alluring thing. Could it be that there’s an object of attention
that one could use in meditation that would be more conducive to the mind naturally focusing
in an effortless way, and becoming more and more and more settled? That’s one question, hold that one in your
awareness. I just also wanted to say, you mentioned that
Samadhi is often translated as concentration in reference to the unique concentration developed
in meditation, but it literally means ‘a gathering together of the mind.’ And there’s that quote in the Gita which
says, “Many-branched and endlessly diverse are the intellects of the irresolute, but
the resolute intellect is one-pointed,” and there are several other references – tortoises
drawing in their limbs and so on, that indicate that what’s being aimed at is a gathering
together or a convergence of all the fragmented streams of awareness into a naturally focused,
almost laser-like condition … well, I wouldn’t say laser-like because a laser is isolated,
whereas Samadhi is said to be a ‘settling into unboundedness
awareness.’ But in any case, concentration in that sense
becomes a symptom or an end result of Samadhi rather than a means to it, a cart-and-horse
kind of situation. So let me leave you with those … there’s
more things I could say but let me leave you with those two: the idea that certain objects
of attention as a means of meditation being naturally more alluring to the mind and therefore
more conducive to effortlessness, and the second one being Samadhi not being attained
through concentration but being a concentrated state through whatever means it’s attained. Culadasa: We’ll deal with the first. Obviously, your environment, your life is
full of a lot of things that are interesting to a relative degree, compared
to each other, and so the normal way that the untrained mind works is that it is always
looking for what is most interesting, entertaining, important, and so of course, the 5-year old
wants to watch SpongeBob! But what we’re really trying to do in mediation
is to train the mind. We have control over our attention – right
now you can choose to pay attention to something else, you can choose to pay attention to one
thing and then another and another, but how long your attention is going to remain on
any one thing does depend on how intrinsically interesting it is. Now in meditation we want to train our mind
so that our attention does whatever we intend it to do, and if we want it to stay on something
even though that something is not very interesting, it will. So if you take a candle flame or breath or
something like that, your breath at first – if you first learn to meditate on the breath
– the first couple of times you do this it’s kind of interesting, but it quickly loses
its interest. Rick: It gets old. Culadasa: Right. But the whole point is that you want to train
your mind so that your attention will do whatever you want it to; it will move when you want
it to and it will stay still when you want it to. And so one of the things that you could do
is look for what’s the most interesting thing. I actually had this come up in one of my meditation
classes, a fellow raised his hand and he says, “I noticed that when I’m sitting and practicing,
that when I start having sexual fantasies it is really easy to stay concentrated. So would it be okay to use that as a mediation
object?” And I pointed out that actually, that’s
not going to achieve your meditation goal because your goal is to have the skill that
allows you to have your attention on whatever you choose to have it on, not something that
is naturally appealing. And so that’s why … if you use the breath,
for example, there is enough variation in the breath that you can make a game of exploring
the things with the breath. You’re going to exhaust that at some point,
but when you’re first learning it can help you stay stable on it. But your objective really is a stability of
attention that is as is determined by your intentions and is a reflection of a skill
that you develop, not to go find the easiest thing around to focus your attention on. Rick: Yeah, would you say that Samadhi or
whatever term you would use to represent something like that, is the ideal outcome of meditation? Because there are so many things we can put
our attention on and we can be dabbling around endlessly in all kinds of turbulent states
of mind, but it’s not that settled, focused attention that Samadhi is defined as. Culadasa: Yes, well see, that’s exactly
what happens. You sit down to meditate and if I tell you
… I won’t tell you to focus your attention on your breath, I’ll tell you to focus your
attention on sensations produced by the breath moving in and out of your nose. The reason is I don’t want you creating
a fantasy of breath coming in – you can’t feel the breath moving in through your pathways
and things like that; I want you to focus on something real. So I tell you to focus on sensations of the
breath at the nose. And what happens is you sit there. With some other part of your mind you have
this pet project that you’ve been working on, it says, “Why don’t we think about
our pet project? That would be fun.” Or you have this worry and some other part
of your mind keeps bringing up this concern that you have of this potential problem, maybe
you can solve it. And some other part of your mind is saying,
“Man, this is a waste of time. I could be out having a beer with my buddies,
I could be watching TV.” Different parts of your mind, and they all
have the same ultimate objective … Rick: Greater happiness, greater fulfillment. Culadasa: “Let’s do something that feels
good and makes us happy” – and the different parts of your
mind have different ideas about what’s going to make you feel good and be happy. Well for some
reason or another, somehow along the way one part of your mind got the idea that learning
to meditate is going to be a way to make yourself really
happy, and it’s in competition with all these others. So the gathering together that we’re talking
about, and this is exactly what you quoted there, the gathering together are these different
mental processes with these different ideas of what’s the best thing that we can do
to make ourselves happy. And the gathering together is where they all
get on track with the same idea that, “Hey, when I meditate” – and let’s use the
word ‘unify’ – “when I meditate my mind does get unified around that process
of following the sensations of the breath. It feels really peaceful, it feels really
good.” And so gradually the other parts of your mind
will say, “Okay, I’m willing to go along with this.” Eventually, the more unified your mind becomes
about this, the more the different parts of your mind become unified around the idea that
meditation is ultimately going to make me feel at least as good, if not better, than
any of these other possible pursuits. Then you go into this place of … it’s
easy to focus, it’s almost effortless, and actually at one point, eventually it does
become completely effortless, because you don’t have different parts of your mind
in conflict about “what’s the best thing for us to be doing.” Rick: Yeah, and obviously it will have to
be the experience that convinces you of that, not just some brow-beating where you convince
yourself that meditation is going to bring happiness; the proof of the pudding is in
the eating. Culadasa: It really helps that you can see
somebody else that’s already experienced it. Rick: Yeah, yeah, although that only goes
so far because you have to experience it too, really. Culadasa: Absolutely, yes. Rick: Let me ask you a question about happiness. Some people use the model … well, this question
may go even deeper. From the way I’m accustomed to thinking,
there is a ground of being, which is Sat-chit- anand – it’s bliss, it’s pure awareness,
it’s consciousness – and it’s not isolated; it’s universal. And so anand or bliss being one of its qualities,
if we can be in tune with that, we’ll experience happiness. And
in fact, some would say that all external happiness is a sort of pale reflection of
that inner happiness, the way the moon is a reflection of the light of the sun. And the idea is … I think that you referred
to the Yoga Sutras earlier, that second verse, “Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations
of the mind.” If the mind can settle down then it will achieve
union or yoga with that pure consciousness, or as that pure consciousness. And that just as turbulent water doesn’t
reflect the sun very clearly and yet still water does, a still mind will reflect or attune
one to that inner bliss. Does that model translate into Buddhist philosophy? Culadasa: It certainly does, yes. That’s essentially what Samatha is. So Samadhi is the gathering together of the
mind and when it reaches a certain degree of maturity, which includes more than just
the concentration aspect, so when the mind becomes highly unified and in its totality
so that it’s not just the focus of attention, which as I said can be a kind of blissful
experience but it doesn’t go anywhere. At the same time there’s this … you spoke
of the clear light of the mind, this very expansive awareness and consciousness that
includes attention but goes way, way beyond it, and that is associated with a very strong
state of bliss. Samatha is described as being characterized
by 5 different things: one is the stability of attention – your attention is not running
around creating these disturbances Patanjali was talking about. The second is powerful mindfulness. Now mindfulness means that this other faculty
of awareness is very well-developed, and your attention and your awareness are working together
in an optimal way. Your mind has to be unified for this to happen. When your mind is unified … another thing
you’ll find that I say in my book is that the natural state of the unified mind is a
state of joy. And in Buddhist philosophy, at least in certain
branches of it … I just lost my train of thought. Rick: I throw in a quote for you while you’re
thinking. You reminded me of something, I think it’s
from the Brahma Sutras, “Contact with Brahma is infinite joy.” Culadasa: Yes, great, and that’s the sort
of thing that we’re talking about, the complete unification of the mind. As the mind becomes very unified, which it
has to in order to have this stable attention and this powerful mindfulness as I have described,
that’s a mental state. So in certain schools of Buddhist philosophy
and in pali we would refer to joy not as a feeling; pleasure is a feeling, bliss is a
feeling – the pali word is ‘vedana’, but it’s pleasant, unpleasant, or neither. So you have a mental state that
corresponds to joy and that’s a unified state, and that gives rise to pleasure, that
gives rise to happiness, that gives rise to bliss. And so we now have four qualities associated
with samatha – we have stable attention, we have powerful mindfulness, and both of
these reflect a unification of mind that is giving rise to a mental state of joy, accompanied
by a very powerful state of blissful happiness, and as that matures there develops this profound
equanimity – by equanimity I mean a non-reactivity. In a sense, what is the ultimate happiness
but to be content, to need or want nothing, to lack nothing at all, and this is really
what that equanimity is born of. You have an internally generated state of
joy and happiness, and so something may come along that’s pleasant and you can enjoy
it, but you don’t need it; there’s no need to grasp onto it. In other words, you respond to it equanimously
– it can come and it can go. Something unpleasant happens – the same
thing. You’re in this internal state of joy and
happiness and you don’t need to react to that unpleasantness, you can let it come and
you can let it go. And so this is the equanimity that arises,
this is the fifth quality. So this is what we’re talking about when
you have samatha. Rick: And I get the sense that everything
you’ve just said is primarily de-scriptive, not so much pre- scriptive. In other words, you’re describing a state
of being, a state of functioning that is attainable and that this is the way your life is going
to operate if it is attained. Culadasa: Yes, that’s right, exactly, yes. And at first you attain it in meditation,
and the more frequently and the longer you’re able to do that, the more when you get up
from your meditation it carries over and you’re dwelling in this state in your daily life. Rick: Yeah, and I think this plays right into
the fact that you are a neuroscientist and most people are familiar with the term ‘neuroplasticity’
and that the brain can be sculpted over time. And so when you’re talking about these states
I presume that you’re talking about not only a unique state, or a desirable or extraordinary
state subjectively, but neurophysiologically it would be as distinct from ordinary waking
consciousness as waking consciousness is from sleeping or sleeping is from dreaming; it’s
its own unique neurophysiological condition, correct? Culadasa: Yes, although it is completely awake,
but yes. And that’s really what you’re doing with
the training and that’s part of the reason that the training takes times and why consistency
is really important, is because what you’re doing is you are systematically practicing
in a way that is rewiring your brain. Rick: Yeah, I know. Did you study that sort of thing when you
were in university? Did you do research on meditators and so on? Culadasa: No. I would like to have but that came much later,
I came too soon for the opportunity to be there. If I had been younger I would have had a chance
to work in some of the labs that are doing that, I would have joined Richard Davidson
and some of these other people, but I didn’t. And not only that, as
a part of my Buddhist training but also as part
of a state of mind that I came to dwell in as a result of my
practice, the things that were required to be done in the laboratory research were things
that I did not feel comfortable doing, and so I made a rather difficult decision … there’s
a certain point in my career where I had an offer from University of California in San
Diego and I had another offer from University in
… what’s the capital of Argentina? Rick: Buenos Aires. Culadasa: No, Rio … Rio de Janeiro. The question was, I didn’t feel comfortable
taking up these research positions and continuing to do what I was doing. So instead, I made a very difficult decision,
I said, “I will teach, I will study, I will write, but I will not do laboratory research. Rick: Okay, well, I don’t think you did
too bad. Now feel free … as I said before we started,
I don’t mean to sidetrack you. I have many questions here but if you feel
like I’m disrupting the flow of your thought, feel free to stay on track and tell me you
want to talk about something else later, but I just want to come back to definitions a
little bit. You said in one quote from your book, “Consciousness
is a process of information exchange taking place within a mind.” Would you agree that that’s one definition
of consciousness? I mean, there are things
we are conscious of – I’m conscious of the cat, I’m conscious of the tree – but
then consciousness itself, do you regard that as a fundamental field by means of which we’re
conscious, the way the electromagnetic field is a field which carries radio waves, by means
of which a particular radio can broadcast music? Do you see consciousness as an epiphenomenon
of brain functioning, or do you feel that consciousness is fundamental to matter and
somehow matter appears to rise out of it, or do you feel like it’s the other way around? Culadasa: What I stated there about consciousness
is really a very radical and revolutionary view of consciousness. People are wanting to make consciousness into
this thing in and of itself, and what I have discovered in the exploration of my own mind
and observations of others and things that are happening in the universe, is that my
conscious experience is when various unconscious mental processes exchange information with
each other. So my subjective experience of consciousness
is nothing more than many different unconscious sub-minds exchanging information. I don’t have a thought; thoughts arise and
I’m conscious of the fact that the thought arose. And then I’m conscious of another thought
that comes up that either reinforces that or perhaps opposes it or perhaps leads to
something else. I can hear myself talking to you and expressing
these ideas, I can tell myself the story that I’m deciding what to tell you, but I know
that’s a lie; I’m listening to it. When I’m thinking, I’m observing the ideas
arising and passing away. When I’m sitting in a restaurant deciding,
will I have this rich meal or will I have this healthy meal, or this one that costs
$45 or this one that’s a nice conservative $20 meal, and things like that – I can observe
the different thoughts arise about what I should pick on the menu, and then I’ll notice
that a decision arises. And I’ll tell myself – and I don’t do
this anymore but at the time I was – I would tell myself the story that, “Oh, I’ve
decided I’ll have the filet mignon.” And then by the time the waiter has come over
and said, “I’ll take your order now,” instead, the other thought comes, “No, I’m
going to have the chicken salad instead,” and I watch it happen
and I no longer tell myself the story that this is happening in consciousness; it’s
not happening in consciousness. Consciousness is this place where … whatever
shows up in consciousness … think of consciousness more of a bulletin board, a display screen,
a conference table where different unconscious parts of your mind present information. Once they present it it’s available to everything
else, and the other parts of your mind can respond to it. So consciousness is a process of information
exchange by unconscious processes. I look at the universe and information is
being exchanged constantly. A rock falls down the mountain and it hits
another rock and information gets exchanged, now one rock has a crack in it and another
has a chip in it. Information exchange is happening everywhere
in the universe. Information exchange is happening at an unconscious
level in many, many different levels in the hierarchy of my mind that information exchange
is taking place. The only aspect of information exchange that
the person is speaking to you knows about is what’s happening at the highest level
of information exchange in my mind, and that’s the one we give the label
‘consciousness’ to. So all these people that are looking for consciousness,
you’re barking up the wrong tree. Consciousness is simply information exchange
in the general sense, and it’s universal, it’s happening everywhere. But what’s unique about the information
exchange that’s happening in a human mind, and also what’s unique about the information
exchange that’s happening at the highest level in your dog that was barking a little
while ago, is that it just happens to be at the level, at the high-enough level in the
mental hierarchy of my mind and your dog’s mind, that it gets stored and it gets part
of the narrative, and me as a human being, I can record it and I can report it to you,
and I’m telling myself the story of who I am and that I was conscious. “Culadasa, were you conscious five minutes
ago?” Yeah, I remember being conscious five minutes
ago. What I remember though is just like the events
that I was describing to you – I stored the story about you asking me a question and
the thoughts that arose and the words I spoke in response to that. That’s what consciousness is. Rick: Okay, let me respond to that. You just described your subjective experience
and you gave some indication of the really sophisticated understanding of the mechanics
of the mind that you lay out in your book, I think it’s pretty brilliant. But to use my analogy of the radio again for
a minute, let’s say we have a room in which we have a radio, a television, a cell phone,
a gamma ray detector, infrared detector, and various other instruments – all of those
instruments, they’re designed to detect and in some way interpret or express certain
frequencies of the electromagnetic field, but the electromagnetic field is just one
field, it’s not a different field by virtue of the fact that each instrument reads it
differently; it’s just one field. And so the whole idea, as I understand it,
of enlightenment or awakening, is to realize oneself as the field of consciousness. Electromagnetism here is just an analogy;
the field of consciousness which is independent of and irrespective of how it’s
reflected through various nervous systems – it’s reflected one way through a dog,
one way through a bat, one way through this person, that person, and each reflection doesn’t
really do justice to the full, deepest nature or quality of that field. But enlightenment or realization does tune
one in to the deepest nature of that field, one realizes that one is that, you know, [that]
I’m not just a man or a woman or a cat or a dog, I am that field of consciousness which
is fundamental to all things and which is actually the substance of all things, if you
will. Do you resonate with that? Culadasa: Totally, you’ve expressed it brilliantly. Yes, that’s exactly what it is. You see, and you can ask yourself this interesting
question: “Why then in my mind is there this one level of information exchange that
we put the label of ‘consciousnesses to? And how come all of these other levels aren’t
accessible in the same way?” Well at their own level they are accessible,
and if somehow I could go down the next level of the hierarchy of my mind I would find that
these sub-minds, they’re each conscious in their own way, but they’re not conscious
of the level that I am. And likewise, a group of people can have a
shared consciousness at the level of individual mind that we’re not aware of. So what does your mind do? Why is one part conscious and the others not? Or, we’ll extend the question beyond that. If, as you describe it, there is this field
of consciousness, this vast field of information exchange that’s taking place on many, many
different levels, and the world is populated with human beings and so there are many human
minds just like mine …. Rick: The universe is populated with … I
mean the whole thing is just unbelievably vast. Culadasa: Yeah, so how come I can’t tune
in to what’s happening to your mind and his mind and her mind and everybody else’s? Well, it’s necessary that I don’t, otherwise
I’d walk out the door and I wouldn’t know which place to go to work. Rick: Wouldn’t be able to function, you’d
be totally overwhelmed. Culadasa: Yeah, so our mind is designed to
… it sticks to the story that’s appropriate to this particular collection of stuff, this
particular five aggregates, so that it can take care of itself, survive and do what it
needs to do. But you can go beyond that in the field of
consciousness, and we do experience that. And the more meditation and the more practice
you do, the more you experience that, and it takes a whole variety of forms. When I’m doing meditation interviews with
my students, I sometimes enter into a place where I know what they’re experiencing,
not in the sense that I’m reading your mind like you might imagine in a science fiction
story, but in the sense that I know it so that I know exactly what I need to tell them
so that they can overcome their particular problem. Another thing that happened to me is that
a lot of popular Buddhism has adopted a pre-Buddhist idea of reincarnation, and there are particular
practices you can do that allow you to “recall” past lives. And I’ve done those practices and I’ve
discovered that I can have detailed experiences that belong to a life and a person that was
definitely not me, and of course it’s like, “Oh, in a previous lifetime I was such and
such, I can tell you the details of some of these experiences I had.” But then it suddenly dawned on me that this
was really no different than I watching a movie, like Dances
With Wolves, and I really get into the main character enough that I feel like I’m that
person. Rick: Kevin Costner. Culadasa: Kevin Costner, yes. And I don’t remember what his name was in
the movie but … Rick: Dances With Wolves was his name. Culadasa: Yeah, that’s what his name was! But I realized, why should I assume that what
I’m tapping into is a string of beings? What I’m doing is I’m accessing mental
contents of other minds, especially that’s when I realized that I could access the contents
of minds that were contemporaneous with each other or with me. And then I realized, “Okay, we can lower
the barriers that separate our consciousness from other similar consciousnesses.” And the way I would explain this is that it’s
a kind of resonance – if you can enter into a particular resonance with another mind,
then you can access that information, and that’s what we do in these practices. So you might be recalling past lives, but
to assume that they’re your past lives in some kind of linear series, that’s total
illusion, right? Rick: Let’s dwell on that for a second,
let me just play devil’s advocate. I heard you say that you’ve come to the
conclusion that there’s no end to spiritual evolution, no end to development. I don’t know whether you mean [that’s]
just in this life or you possibly mean that when this body drops that there’s some sort
of essence that continues on and picks up where we left off, next time around, which
is more of a Hindu emphasis, where it is said that dropping the body is like changing clothes
and putting on new garments. So I don’t know, that theory kind of makes
sense to me but it’s something I’ve been dwelling on for 40,
50 years, so maybe I’m just brainwashed with that way of thinking. How can you be so certain that when
you have had some past life experience [that] it wasn’t your soul or your essence in a
previous body? Culadasa: Well let’s go back to the idea
of resonance. The only way that I could is that there must
be some kind of resonance. Rick: Yeah, there must be some subtle essence
that moves from one to the next, as you buy and sell cars
but you’re still the driver of the new car. Culadasa: Um, no. That’s not what I’m saying and I don’t
agree with that, okay? Alright, I’m saying that there’s some
kind of … I have put my mind, this mind that is associated with this particular person
into a state of resonance which allows me to tap into, it seems that, the cumulative
experience of an individual mind somehow persists. It is like any event that happens in the universe,
the information from that continues to propagate, we can even measure the background radiation
of the Big Bang. So it seems that that’s the case too with
… so I can put myself in a state of resonance and resonate. Why would I not assume that that was me? It’s because one of the things that I’ve
learned as a result of my most profound insight experience is, that there is no subtle essence
in here, that that is an illusion. In
other words, no matter where I look and how deeply I look and no matter what stories I
want to make up, it just isn’t there, there’s nothing
there. The thing is as we spoke of a field of consciousnesses,
I’m a part of that field of consciousness, and when I die, everything about the experience
of this person during this period of however many decades that it’s active and interacting
with the field of consciousness as a whole, that remains part of the field of consciousness
as a whole. So a sperm unites with an ovum and an embryo
is formed. Due to genetics and various environmental
factors, a brain begins to form that will function in a particular way. After the birth of that child there are going
to be various other formative influences. Now, it can come into resonance with the portion
of the field of consciousness that basically was generated by this person during its period
of activity, and as such, to the degree its resonant it can absorb that – absorb those
characteristics. But it’s not the only one; there could be
10 such children or a 100 such children that come after I die, or even while I’m still
alive, whose minds come into resonance and can draw upon what is present in my contribution. It’s just like I can point a telescope to
the sky and I can locate the signal, the radiation signal of a supernova that happened sometime
in the past because I have my telescope focused in the
right place and in the right way. It could be a radio, telescope, or it could
be all kinds of instruments, and I can take that information and incorporate
it with other information, I can add to our understanding of the universe, if I was an
astronomer. So if I was an infant, and then I’m a 6
year-old and then a 10 year-old, and then I’m an 18 year-old who discovers Buddhism
and starts meditating and things like this … well one of the things that happened in
my experience is that the more I meditated, studied, and studied Buddhism and spirituality,
the more I felt myself that I began to have understandings, I began to have knowledge
that I don’t know where that came from. Well, I think I do know where that comes from
… Rick: Past lives! Culadasa: What’s that? Rick: I said, past lives. Culadasa: Yeah, past lives. Rick: But not necessarily yours. Culadasa: Not necessarily mine, but past lives
of people who devoted their lives similarly and went beyond where I went, but I came into
enough of a resonance with them that I could tap into that. And I have this experience when I’m teaching
sometimes; I’ll hear wisdom coming out of my mouth and I’ll say, “Wow! That’s beautiful, I didn’t know that.” Rick: Yeah, like where did that come from. Well, there’s a number of thoughts I have
on this, for what it’s worth. So what you’re saying basically is that
all the qualities and experiences that one accumulates
in a life is like filling a bucket, and when the body dies that bucket gets dumped into
the field. And when it’s time to form a new life, the
bucket gets taken out of the field but it could be a mixture of all sorts of things
from all sorts experiences that various beings have had and that forms a new life. But then what about the fact that you said
earlier, that your teacher or someone in your lineage was said to be the reincarnation of
so-and-so, and the Dalai Lama is supposed to be the 14th Dalai Lama and is a reincarnation,
and so that does seem to be part of that tradition. Culadasa: Well I don’t find any conflict
with that at all. As you may be aware, when a
Dalai Lama or one of these other high rinpoches dies, then there are some people with a very
well-developed skill set that go in search of “the reincarnation.” Well what are they really looking for? I would say what they’re looking for is
a child who they can sense that with the right training can be brought into a resonance to
tap into that. Rick: I thought they test him by seeing if
he recognizes beads and other belongings of the previous one, and all that stuff? Culadasa: I think it’s at a deep intuitive
level where they are tuning in to that child’s mind, maybe not at a conscious level. I would warrant if we could study the process
closely enough we’d find that, intentionally or completely unconsciously, the lamas doing
the testing are making sure that they pick the right set of beads, because they’ve
already by some other process concluded … this is a really good candidate. And they don’t always succeed either; some
of the Dalai Lamas of the past have turned into
… it was a total mistake, they picked the wrong kid, either that or the training that
they gave them didn’t take, but it’s a combination. I think when you’re looking for a tulku,
first of all you try to find a child that’s suitable, has potential, but then a huge part
of it is the training that they undergo subsequently. And I want to go back to what you said earlier,
it’s not like you take a bucket of water and you throw it back in the lake because
there’s a certain coherence. Now I would say that the less well-developed
a person is mentally and spiritually the less coherence there is to their mind, so there
is some part of their mind that’s going to come back as something noble and beautiful
and some other part of their mind that’s going to come back as a cockroach. But the more spiritual coherence that somebody
has developed, then the more these tendencies as a part of the whole in the field of consciousness
… there are so many different analogies that we could draw upon here. Rick: Let’s take a concrete example. Let’s say these kids who are born with microcephaly
because of the Zika virus, so you would say that there is no undeveloped soul or somebody
with bad karma who needs to experience that kind of a life, it’s more that the cosmic
intelligence expresses in all sorts of varieties but there’s no personal thing attached to
it? Maybe you should re-express that in your own
terms. Culadasa: Let’s use a different example. There are, I don’t know, everyday dozens
or maybe hundreds of children born into extreme poverty in Calcutta, for example. That’s going to be a person and that person
could say, “Why me? Why wasn’t I born into a wealthy family
in the Bronx?” Right? So there’s going to be a person that has
that experience and let’s forget about there being some kind of self that did something
that made them deserve that. The world has done something that has created
Calcutta and has created poverty and that meant there’s going to be children born
into that and we’re all part of the same thing. So yes, it’s all of our karma that … Rick: Okay, and I promise I’m going to get
off this point in just a second because there are a lot of other things we should still
talk about, but what about near death experiences? Have you ever studied those and the kinds
of things people experience, the kinds of beings they encounter and so on when the body
is basically checked out? Culadasa: Yes I have, and there are a lot
of things that you could say about that. Let me start out by saying that a near death
experience is exactly that – they haven’t died … by definition they haven’t died. And of course we have cases where people are
“brain dead,” there’s no electrical activity you can measure on the scalp. Rick: Eban Alexander? Culadasa: Right, but now, I mean there was
a point in time when if somebody’s heart stopped beating we said, “Ah, they’re
dead;” now we restart hearts. Now we’re finding more and more cases where
there’s no electrical activity measurable at the scalp but the person comes back and
they’re normal again. Rick: But they say, “Yeah, but I saw the
surgeons operating on me and I saw something that was outside the window that couldn’t
even have been seen in the position I was in that room,” so there’s some kind of
subtle extension of the person that takes a different vantage point. Culadasa: Yes, and there’s a number of ways
that you could explain that. You don’t need to resort to the idea that
… I’ll offer this … there are quite a few cases of people who have come out of
deep anesthesia who can recount the conversations. I mean, surgeons and their assistants and
nurses talk about things during the surgery, and patients – there are quite a few cases
documented of people who come out and say, “Well I heard you talking about something
else,” or “I heard you talking about me,” or “What happened during my surgery?” And they say, “Actually your heart stopped
for a while and we were worried,” and they remember hearing that. There’s another explanation to the “…there’s
something else that happened outside the window” – if our minds are really not separate, which
is a thesis that I hold very strongly to … I’m a nondualist, I believe that matter and mind
are not separate, it’s only one stuff, and it’s neither mind nor matter but it appears
as one or the other depending on how you look at it. So therefore, from the point of view of mind,
which is just a point of view of this stuff, but from the point of view of mind, we’re
just as connected as we are physically. All you have to have is one of the nurses
in the operating room look out the window …
Rick: Ah, and you’re picking up on her perception. Culadasa: Although I’ve never seen an operating
room with a window, but anyway, if they had one, there’s no reason why that perception
could not be picked up mind to mind, especially in an extremely altered state like deep anesthesia. Rick: Okay, good. So I’m going to shift to some questions
and get us off the topic we’ve been discussing, and maybe it will be a little abrupt shifting
from one question to the next but it will enable us to bring out some more facets of
your teaching. And a couple of questions have come in from
listeners, so maybe I’ll ask those first, but you’re going to have to define some
of the stages used, some of the terms used, because people won’t know what you’re
talking about otherwise. So let me ask a couple of those first, and
this is going to be a little disjointed because we’re going to jump from question to question. This is from a fellow named Jivan from Fairfax,
Virginia who asks: “How do Dzogchen, Mahamudra and Rigpa fit into your model of awakening? Are these post-stage 10 practices?” And that’s the question – please, again,
define terms as you answer it. Culadasa: Okay, so I divided the development
of samatha into ten stages and I took as my starting place the mind stages of samatha
that a sangha developed many centuries ago. The tenth and final stage is where your samatha
persists for a very long time after you get up from meditation – samatha as I described
it earlier. So the question was, “Are Dzogchen and Mahamudra
…?” Rick: How do they fit into your model? Dzogchen, Mahamudra and Rigpa, how do they
fit into your model? Are these post-stage 10 things or somewhere
within the first ten stages? Culadasa: The answer is no. Essentially what the Dzogchen and Mahamudra
are in their essence, are one of the practices that I teach people to do in stage nine as
a part of helping them to achieve the fully developed samatha and move on to stage ten. So that’s where they fit into it. And the Rigpa, that’s the clear light of
the mind, that’s essentially what we were talking about as the field of consciousness
that you can open yourself up to, and it’s very illuminating in many senses of the word. Rick: Okay, good. Here’s another one, this is from Taylor
in Texas: “How does insight deepen and perception change beyond fourth path?” Again, there will have to be a definition
here. “How practical are the stages of awakening? Is it common for practitioners to achieve
fourth path, for example, and find it undesirable or attempt to drop back
to an earlier location?” That’s the kind of thing Jeffery Martin
talks about … that you can’t handle the stage you’re at so you kind of dumb down
to previous stage to make it livable. Culadasa: Yes, Jeffrey’s locations that
he’s defined, and when you talk about ‘path’ and ‘fourth path,’
the Buddha defined four paths, four stages of awakening in terms of certain fetters that
fall away, and so I’m not going to explain them in detail. But the fourth path is the highest one he
bothered to mention – although I can tell you that that’s not
the highest path, that’s not the end of the process – it’s called
Arahant or Arhat, depending on the language you’re using. Jeffery’s locations and the Buddha’s four
paths have a lot of strong parallels but they don’t map perfectly onto each other. The one thing that Jeffery found is that people
who appear to be in his location 4, which sort of but not exactly corresponds to fourth
path – Arhat, they found that the loss of emotion that occurs as a part of that to be
extremely disturbing and they didn’t like it; they felt like they were no longer human
and so forth, so therefore they intentionally drop back to a lower path. And what I’ll say about that is that’s
too bad for them, in a sense, but then again it’s quite alright as well because to be
at one of the lower classes is not a bad thing either. But that is a temporary phenomenon, the fourth
path, and as a matter of fact, one of the higher paths is when you come to the place
of fully embracing the world once again, in other words reengaging your humanity in a
whole new way. So because there’s a temporary period where
you seem to have lost it, it’s unfortunate not to move
through that to the next side or to the further side of it. But the other thing too is that it’s not
uncommon for there to be a movement between these different paths, and this can be something
that is not intentional or can be something intentional. Somebody who is at a third path, for example,
and either intentionally or unintentionally goes back to a second path state where there
still is desire and aversion, where there’s, in this case if they’re at third path, there
would be a reoccurrence of desire and aversion for the things of the sense realm. If they do it intentionally because they want
to explore something more deeply, so that they can perhaps prepare themselves to move
to fourth path, or it can happen unintentionally just because the insights that they have haven’t
completely consolidated or matured, and some incident in their life causes them to move
back to that state. Rick: Yeah, that actually relates to a question
that my friend Ben sent in, we got a bunch of questions
from him. He said, “How does your sub-mind theory
help explain the many fallen “awakened” teachers”
– he put ‘awakened’ in quotes – “from the East and West?” I could elaborate on the question but I think
you get it. Culadasa: Yes, well actually in terms of fallen
awakened teachers … there’s two answers to this. The one that relates most to the mind system
theory and the sub-mind is that with any insight, and with any path attainment, not necessarily
every part of your mind achieves that insight, and of those that do, not
every part of your mind achieves it to the same degree. There is a process of maturation and as a
matter of fact, you could regard the four paths themselves as describing a process of
maturation. If you think of the mind as a hierarchy of
sub-minds and sub-sub-minds and sub-sub-sub-minds, then an insight needs to spread both horizontally
and vertically, and what you’re after is eventually a place where all the sub-minds
at every level have integrated the same insight. But before that’s happened, before that’s
happened you could find yourself in a situation that activates part of your mind with its
past conditioning that hasn’t integrated those insights at all. Rick: That’s good. Kind of relates to Ken Wilbur’s idea of
lines of development and how lines don’t necessarily develop sequentially or in complete
correlation with one another; they can get pretty out of whack. Culadasa: Yes. Rick: So I’m just going to ask another question
here and take a swing at it: “Discuss awakening to no- separate self versus the full enlightenment
of the arahant. It seems that both Hindu and Buddhist Scriptures
describe full enlightenment as involving behavioral changes that indicate a lack of attachment
to aversion and a disposition to compassion and love.” It kind of goes back to what you were saying
and let me just put another spin on the question before you respond. Thinking of my discussion with Jeffery Martin,
I remember when I talked to him I said something similar to what you just said, which is that
there are stages and weight stations and some may seem rather dry but that’s not the end,
so you want to move forward rather than back. And I think it relates to the fact that awakening
can take place at different levels – head, heart, gut, and the whole chakra system can
be brought into discussion. But there are stages to development and as
you said, there are some marvelous examples of people who are by no means beginners or
intermediates who are profoundly devotional and compassionate and full of heart, so one
should never mistake dryness for any kind of final destination. I hope I didn’t deviate from the original
question here … sorry. Culadasa: I kind of lost what the actual question
was. Rick: Yeah, let me read his original question
and maybe we can weave both these things together: Discussing awakening to no-separate self,
which I think can be a dry state, versus the full enlightenment of the arahant, it seems
that both Hindu and Buddhist Scriptures describe full enlightenment as involving behavioral
changes – and this is an important point. Is there a correlation between development
of consciousness and the way you behave – could you be an enlightened shmuck? And the correlation with compassion and love
and so on. Culadasa: Okay, yeah, I got you and I can
answer this … except I’m losing my own train of thought here. Rick: Well, I’ll help you for a second but
interrupt me as soon as you’re ready. You ready? Culadasa: Okay. Rick: Okay, go. Culadasa: No, no …
Rick: Oh, you’re ready for me to interrupt. So we’re talking about correlation between
awakening and changes in behavior, development of the heart, compassion, love … okay good,
go for it. Culadasa: Alright, yes. All of the four paths are associated with
distinct changes in behavior and as a matter of fact, in the tradition I come from, and
I can’t speak for traditions that I’m not familiar with but certainly in the Theravadan
tradition which I’m familiar with, if we believe that somebody has achieved
a particular path or a particular stage of awakening we’ll say, “It seems like you
have … we’ll see in 6 months or a year or 2 years.” And there is this thing that they say in some
schools, that only an awakened person can tell if somebody else is awakened and I say
that’s BS, because their behavior will reveal it. Now the thing about ‘no separate self’
… it’s really that the self manifests in us in two different ways, one is conceptual
– I call it the ‘ego self,’ it is the idea of who we are. If I ask you to describe who you are or write
it down, if I ask you to spend the next week … every day sit down for half an hour and
write down a description, what you would get is a conceptual description of who you are
– what you like, what you don’t like, your personality characteristics, bla, bla,
bla. And that’s a good description of who you
are, that’s the ego self. Rick: Yeah, it’s who my relative self is. Culadasa: Right. That’s what goes away with first path, with
stream entry. What remains is the inherent sense, this feeling,
a feeling that I’m a separate self even though I know I’m not. From stream entry on I’ll know I’m not
a separate self, I’ve seen through that but I still feel like it. What goes away with the arhat is the feeling,
the inherent sense of being separate, that’s completely dissolved. Now, the other part of this you mentioned
was compassion. Very interesting work done by another friend
of mine – Richard Boyle – and he didn’t interview nearly as many people before he
wrote his book as Jeffery did. What is the name of Richard Boyle’s book? Anyway, Richard deserves that I … anyway,
what he recognized as a result of his interviews and which I totally agree with in my experience,
is that when somebody achieves the first level of awakening there’s a certain kind of compassion
that is born that is inevitable, because they have had a realization that they are not a
separate self. So their mind will never quite lose the compassion
that’s born of that realization, but it may go no further than that. And so a person can become an arhat and still
only have that primitive level of compassion. Compassion and wisdom have to be developed
separately, or no, I should say they have to be developed concurrently, yes. Here it is, Realizing Awakened Consciousness
– Richard’s book. Rick: And is there a correlation between them? Like is it a stretchy rubber band, where if
you pull it the other end is going to come along, or are they totally disconnected? Culadasa: They’re not totally disconnected
but there’s also a stretchiness so that somebody could go an awful long ways in the
wisdom direction and still have pretty primitive compassion, but the further they go there’s
going to be this tension pulling them in the direction of compassion. And I think that’s what accounts for a lot
of our fallen spiritual masters, you know? You ask, “How could the person have done
that to his students and his sangha?” Well, he may have had a lot of wisdom but
he was missing on that other component. And the other side of it is you can have people
lack the wisdom but they develop an enormous amount of compassion. Rick: So I guess what you’re saying is it’s
not like a table, where if you pull one leg all the other legs are going to come along;
you can’t just sit in Samadhi on a regular basis and expect to become a compassionate
person necessarily, that you might need to work on several levels. Fine, have your
Samadhi experiences, but also go out and do some selfless service or do something to develop
the heart and the behavioral … you know, that kind
of thing. Culadasa: Yes, you do have to. and it’s
one of the things that I think the Tibetan tradition does a better job than most do,
is they have a lot of practices designed to develop compassion, and there’s loving kindness
meditation in the Theravadan tradition … it tries to do the same thing. But there’s even a downfall in this: you
can do all these compassion practices and they’ll develop the part of your brain that
is associated with compassion and that also produces a state of happiness – and this is
one of the interesting things I found, is that you take
somebody who does compassion meditation, stick them in an
FMRI machine and the parts of their prefrontal lobe that is associated with happiness light
up. So you can do all these practices – sitting
in your monk cell or your meditation hall or in your cave – and you can really develop
the compassion part of your brain and you can enjoy a lot of personal happiness as a
result of that, and never do a single thing for anybody else’s benefit. Rick: It would be interesting to see if such
a person went to New York City and started walking down the street and encountering the
stresses and challenges and trials and tragedies of life in the outer world, the real world
– “real” world … you know what I mean – whether it would hold up or whether it was
just easy to maintain when you’re sitting in your cave, but it kind of falls flat when
you get out there. Culadasa: Well what happens is … this happened
to me, I didn’t develop the compassion part to the degree I should have. And then there came a point in my own spiritual
development where fate or whatever … I was brought in contact with people with an enormous
amount of suffering, and that part of me just … it blossomed. It was there, it was primed, I developed it. From a neurological point of view the synapses
had been formed in that part of my brain, it’s just I hadn’t experientially had
anything to trigger it. And once it did then my heart opened, and
I started becoming a much more compassionate person as a result of it. I’m still in the process of developing that. Rick: Yeah, well it’s kind of interesting. The analogy that comes to mind is … let’s
say you’re practicing martial arts, and you’re just practicing and practicing and
practicing but you never actually entered a tournament or anything. But when you finally do enter one you do pretty
well because of all that practice, as compared to somebody like me who entered – if I were
to enter such a tournament – would get … you know! And so you finally had a chance to apply it
and it showed that you had actually developed something, and you did. Culadasa: That’s right, and so a really
important part of the spiritual path is to get out of your cave and get out in the world
and get that triggered. And I think this is what happens with some
of our fallen masters – they become too secluded. They sit there on their mountaintop, they
may be surrounded by a thousand adoring students but it’s not triggering what needs to be
triggered. Rick: Another syndrome is they were raised
in an ashram in India or someplace like that and never confronted with the sorts of things
that they encountered when they came to the West, and so they had no idea they would react
as they did once confronted by those things. Culadasa: That’s exactly right, yes, and
it can be quite overwhelming. It was overwhelming for me when
I first experienced it, it was like, “Oh, my God!” Rick: Yeah, and I try to take the attitude
of ‘there but the grace of God, there go I,’ and ‘judge not lest you be judged’
– if I were in their shoes, same thing might have happened to me. So it’s good to be compassionate and appreciative
of the benefit that they do bring to the world or have brought to the world, and you take
what you need and you leave the rest. You write that the purification of the senses
results in subtle perception, at least that’s what my friend Ben said that you wrote, and
that these experiences of light, joy, silence, etcetera, sound like aspects of the personal
God-realization experience that is discussed in some other traditions. Do you think there is some kind of experiential
overlap there? Culadasa: Yes, I do. Personally, I think all legitimate, valid
spiritual traditions … there’s a commonality there. And we use different language and we apply
different conceptual interpretations and models to do it, but yeah, there’s a lot of overlap. Rick: Yeah, well actually on that point, I’ve
often wondered why – at least I’ve often heard that – Buddhism doesn’t really talk
about God very much. I mean guys like … what’s his name, the
guy who wrote the Waking Up series? Sam Harris … manage to be dedicated Buddhists
and yet Atheists. Culadasa: Yes, totally Atheistic. Rick: Yeah, so I kind of wonder about that
because my sense of things is that full realization would open one up to something that … and
the word ‘God’ is very much misunderstood and misused in many corners, but some sort
of Divine Intelligence that is far from being random or capricious or anything else, that
the universe is infused with, permeated by, orchestrated by vast intelligence which we
might call God. Does Buddhism see it that way or what? Why does Buddhism have a reputation for being
Atheistic? Culadasa: You speak of Buddhism as if it were
one thing! And there are so many different kinds of Buddhism,
and flavors and tastes and everything like that. What I think is pretty much universally not
seen in Buddhism is the kind of personal God – God as a person, God as a being, and without
going into detail, such a notion is in conflict with almost every core doctrine of Buddhism. On the other hand, if you go to very progressive
Christian thinkers – Catholic and otherwise – you will find they have descriptions and
notions of God that I think many Buddhists would be very comfortable with – I say many,
but not necessarily all or even most. But I think it would be horribly naïve of
us to think that we represent a level of mental and spiritual development that can perceive
the limits of the underlying intelligence and beauty, magnificence and even teleology
in the universe. When I look at the universe – and I study
physics and things like this as part of my process – when I look at the history of
the universe I see it as a very progressive evolutionary process, when I look at human
history I see the same thing; I see it in animal evolution, I see it in human history. I lived through the revolutionary times in
the 60s when race relationships in this country underwent dramatic changes. For example, take entropy, physicists will
say [it is] the Third Law of Thermodynamics, – that you can tell which event is future
and which event is past by the degree of entropy – I say you can take two events and say which
was in the past and which came later by the degree to which the universe has expressed
this kind of evolution toward a higher state. I don’t begin to pretend to understand what
that is, I just recognize that it’s there. And I know that there are people who would
jump all over me for saying that and I don’t mind. To me, I see it and it’s as clear as can
be, and I’m quite happy in my ignorance of how it works. Rick: Doesn’t sound too ignorant to me,
that was a great answer. And interesting you should mention entropy
because obviously if entropy were the only law, the universe would just disintegrate. But obviously there is something which creates
order and complexity and specificity and so on, that is quite the opposite of entropy,
even though entropy may be tugging at its heels all the time but there is always this
increasing sophistication. Which to me, very much speaks of Divine Intelligence
that has some kind of … what’s that term? Evolutionary Panentheism. I’ve discovered that that’s what I am,
if I had to define my philosophy; that there is this evolutionary imperative or force in
the universe that just keeps evolving more and more sophisticated vehicles through which
the Divine can be a living reality. Culadasa: Yes, I would go along with that
and I always try to stop short of putting labels on it, because as soon as you put words
to it somebody can tear it apart. Rick: Yeah, like if you use the word ‘God,’
somebody might use a strawman argument that you’re referring to some bearded guy in
the sky or something. We can agree on our terms but I think you
and I are talking about the same thing – just some vast, unfathomable intelligence, or something. Culadasa: And I would say that that realization
itself is one of the greatest gifts of pursuing the spiritual path, is that you discover it
is a mystery that you know you will never even begin to plumb. But to exist in the midst of that great, incredible,
wondrous mystery is itself so awe-inspiring that to live there for a moment makes it all
worthwhile. Rick: Yeah, and I think this relates back
to what we were saying earlier about devotion and compassion, because when you really start
to tune into that, what we were discussing, it just thrills the heart and gives you this
sense of awe and reverence, it really wakes that quality up in you. Culadasa: It really does. Rick: Here is maybe a final question; we’ll
see if anything else comes up from me or you or listeners. But this is from … oh, here’s another
one that just came in … but this is from … Well let me see what this other one is
first because this other question is kind of final. Okay, this is another good one to ask. Are you doing okay timewise? Culadasa: I’m doing fine. Rick: Okay, great. This is from someone named Dawn in Louisiana
who asks, “What is your view of the siddhis, the so-called psychic powers?” Culadasa: Well, I think some of the siddhis
… Rick: Buddha was said to have some, right? Culadasa: Yes. Well a lot of things said about the Buddha
are quite questionable. Rick: Yeah, a little bit. Culadasa: So it depends on which siddhis you’re
talking about, but the fact that I’ve already stated that I’m a total nondualist and I
believe that our minds are interconnected, so there are some siddhis which are quite,
to me, they are quite understandable. Rick: Being able to see something at a distance
or know something at a distance. You know somebody is
going to phone you and all of a sudden it rings and that kind of thing … Culadasa: Sure, yeah, those kinds of things,
no problem at all. Now you get into walking on water and
walking through walls and … Rick: We need proof. Culadasa: Yeah, I’ll have to see it. Rick: I think that’s a healthy attitude. Here in Fairfield, Iowa there have been people
practicing a siddhi program for decades, and there’s this lady I was talking to at a
garden party and she was saying, “Well, I’ve gotten to the point where I wake up
in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and I can barely walk because I’m floating
and I’m just on my tiptoes.” And I said, “Great, do you own a bathroom
scale?” and she said, “No.” So I said, “Well get one, and next time
this happens just step on it and see what your weight is and let me know!” Culadasa: Fabulous answer, that’s brilliant! Rick: Somewhat related to this but a little
bit different is … actually we kind of touched on this. Did I already ask you this? I did a little bit, about subtle perception,
then we got into talking about love and devotion and things like that. But I know that in Buddhist iconography and
so on, there are all sorts of beings floating around; I see these rugs where
there are all these characters on different levels of creation and so on. In your view, is there a vertical dimensionality
to creation with subtle realms in which beings reside that we might not be able to perceive
with our ordinary earthly senses? Culadasa: A simple answer: yes. A more complex answer is: what we can perceive
and how we perceive it is limited by both our sense organs and the neural tissue we
have to process the input of those sense organs. And we could look at many other living organisms
on this planet and we can know that there are lots of things that we perceive that they
don’t, we could look at other organisms and there are lots of things they can perceive
that we can’t. And so to posit that there are actually beings
of a sort and realms of a sort that are energetically indetectable by us, well, in physics we have
dark matter and dark energy, so that by itself says, yes, this is possible. Rick: Yeah, some people posit that birds can
actually see magnetic lines and that they navigate that way when they migrate. And we know about bats and whales and all
kinds of things that can hear things and see things that we can’t, so that’s not surprising. It’s somewhat analogous but not entirely,
because what we’re talking about here is subtler realms and many people do develop
the capacity to experience them; their sensory capacities evolve and they can see angels
or whatever these beings are. Culadasa: Exactly, and I agree with that,
I know people like that, and I’m impressed by their abilities and I don’t find it as
a surprise. Because if there were beings of a sort that
our senses can’t detect but they had minds, then their minds would be part of the same
mind-field that we’re a part of. So even though we couldn’t from the material
perspective see them, from the mental perspective, if we’re part of the same mind-field then
why could we not sense them and have contact with them? So it is completely plausible to me. I haven’t personally … well, have I had
…? I practiced shamanism for a while and while I was doing that I definitely felt like
I was in touch with spirit beings of a different realm, that could not be seen, felt, touched,
or anything else, so I won’t’ say that I haven’t experienced that. I could also look at that and say, okay, I
was very much primed by the whole training that I did and the things that we do as a
part of shamanic processes and the drumming and things like that, and that those could
have been projections of my own mind. I can’t deny that that’s a possibility
but nevertheless, I had those experiences and they could as easily represent having
actually had contact with beings in a different realm, as they could be a projection in my
mind. Rick: Yeah, okay, good. Here’s a question that just came in from
my friend Ben – the other ones he had sent me previously, this just came in – he is
down in Austin. He said – and this will take a little bit
of explanation because it is an in-group question – “The so-called ‘pragmatic dharma movement’
pioneered by Bill Hamilton, Daniel Ingram. Kenneth Folk and others takes a full disclosure
attitude towards attainments. Do you agree with this stance?” And I think what he means by that is when
I interviewed Daniel Ingram, he said he was quite upfront about the attainments he felt
he had achieved and he felt like you shouldn’t hide your light under a bushel, and if people
are going to practice for decades to attain something, then when somebody finally
does [attain] they should say so, you know, otherwise what hope is there for people starting
out? So do you agree with that? Culadasa: I certainly do agree with that,
and here is an opinion I want to throw in, I’m glad I have the opportunity. In the Tripitaka – the Buddhist book of
the stories of the Buddha – this is the book of discipline, where each of the rules
he made for the monks has a story behind it. So within there he gives the instruction to
his monks not to make claims about their meditation and spiritual attainments for sake of personal
benefits, he doesn’t say, “Keep it a secret.” But how that has subsequently been interpreted
is that you don’t ever mention this to anybody except maybe your teacher, or maybe somebody
else who is at the same level of attainment that you are. And the effect of that is just the opposite
of what you might think its intention was; it allows somebody to pass themselves off
as having attainments that they don’t, because they act as though they do and then somebody
comes and says, “Well, are you enlightened?” and the person says, “Sorry, can’t tell
you that.” And it allows people including … You mentioned Bill Hamilton, he wrote a great
book called Saints and Psychopaths, and there are a lot of psychopaths among our saints. And it is exactly this kind of thing that
allows psychopaths to play these kinds of games. Rick: Yeah, I feel very strongly and I’ve
given talks on this that if we had a clearer understanding of what enlightenment actually
is, then it would be a lot harder for psychopaths to pose as saints, and all the abusive cults
and strange things that have come along would have had a really hard time getting off the
ground; people wouldn’t have been so easily misled. So I think it is important for us as a culture
to evolve in the direction of a much clearer, more precise, more detailed, common understanding
of the whole spiritual realm. Culadasa: I agree with that totally, with
the caveat that what we’re talking about are things that can be subject to being misunderstood
and we have to be careful how we talk about those things, for that reason. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk
about them, we should, it’s important that we do, and it’s important that Jeffery Martin
and Richard Boyle and people like that do the work. I’ve got a couple of … there’s a fellow
named [Michael] Costeines who did a PhD thesis … it’s good we’re doing research on
awakened people so we’re going to develop a body of knowledge about what awakening really
is. Rick: Yeah, and there are a lot of people
working on this sort of thing independently and I hope that more and more they collaborate
with one another. There is the Science & Nonduality Conference
in California and that Consciousness Conference they have down in Tucson and there are attempts
to do this, but I think much more could be done. And I think that one of the things that could
be done is some kind of neurophysiological parameters that would be measurable and that
would be found through enough research to correlate with various states of consciousness,
that you could actually take some kind of EEG test to determine what stage you were
at, if it were all properly developed. Culadasa: I think we’re a long, long way
from that but is it theoretically possible? Yes. Rick: Yes, an interesting goal perhaps. Um, okay, unless a final question comes in,
this would be a good wrap-up question: “What are you working on in your own personal practice?”
– this is from Ignacio Martinez in Buenos Aires. What are you working on in your own personal
practice? Culadasa: Um, two things I guess, one is as
I mentioned before, compassion – developing my own compassion and a total reembracing
of my own humanity. I would consider that as being a path-level
that’s not traditionally described, that I’m working on. And the other thing that I’m working on
is the implications of my own death. Rick: Mm-hmm. And in that regard and apperpoe of what we
were discussing earlier, what do you make of the whole Bodhisattva that well, ‘I’m
not going to check out of here ultimately until all beings are awake and I’ll be happy
to come back again and again?’ Sounds like you wouldn’t buy into that notion
because you don’t believe in any one entity coming back again and again. Culadasa: Well I actually … yes, I don’t
believe in any kind of self or soul or entity that’s going to come back again as it is,
on the other hand, attitudinally it is right on, it is perfect. That’s what I’m saying – reengaging
with the world … never withdraw from the world because you feel like you’ve made
it. This is the kind of Mahayana criticism of
the Theravadan Arhat that, “Okay, that’s fine, you’re enlightened so now you don’t
worry about the rest of the world..?” Rick: Yeah, “I’m out of here!” Culadasa: Yeah, and I don’t buy that at
all, I mean, you do absolutely everything you can to bring absolutely everyone else
along with you and you do it now. It doesn’t matter if I’m wrong and I come
back again another lifetime, that’s not my concern; my concern is what I do now. Rick: Yeah, that’s good, and it’s a little
bit of an angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin argument – whether we come back or this or that happens,
or who knows. I once heard an interview with some yogi who
spoke good English and he was asked about this whole coming back thing and he said,
“I don’t really care, whatever God wills, I just want to be of service. If I come back, if I don’t come back, it’s
in God’s hands and I’m surrendered to that.” Culadasa: And that’s exactly what the Buddha
said when he was asked about these things, although all these Buddhists forget it. He said, “It doesn’t matter, reincarnation
or what happens after you die is irrelevant – forget about it, doesn’t matter.” Rick: Ah, good. Well I didn’t have your physical book but
I think people can see this (holding up book) – The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation
Guide. I’ve been reading it on my iPad and it’s
a great book – very thorough, a little bit heady in places, I mean you really have to
focus to understand what you’re saying but it’s a good exercise in and of itself, and
it’s like a marvelous analysis. The feeling I got as I was reading was like,
wow, this is someone who has really been studying the mind for a long time, in terms of his
own subjective practice and experience, and has fleshed out great, great
detail as to how – or a detailed theory at least as to how the mind functions. So it’s interesting, very
good book. Culadasa: Thank you, thank you. Rick: So people wanting to get involved with
what you’re offering or what not … what do you have to offer? You have a facility down there, near Tucson,
right? People can go there? Are there also online courses? Do you travel around and teach them? What could people do to get in touch with
or connect with you? Culadasa: Well right now I’m putting most
of my effort into training people to teach what I teach, and I
have a lot of students who have a high level of spiritual attainment themselves … Rick: Yeah I know, and sorry to interrupt
but I just wanted to say, I’ve heard it said that you can tell the quality of a teacher
by the quality of his students, and I’ve been listening to a lot of recordings of yours
and I was very impressed with a lot of the questions that your students are asking and
things they’re saying. I thought, “Wow, this is really a mature
group.” Culadasa: And the crème de la crème are
the ones … every Saturday morning and every Sunday morning I do a 2-hour online class
with different groups of people; I have four groups going right now and that’s where
most of my energy is going. Also, I’ve been dealing with a lot of health
issues and cancer. I am leading a retreat this summer at Shambhala
Mountain Center and I believe there’s space in that. I’m also doing a retreat in September at
Berry Center and it is full, but there’s a waiting list. And at the moment I’m holding off on scheduling
other retreats to see where my health goes. I also have another book that I’m working
on and I want to have time for. What we do have is people coming here and
doing solo retreats, and occasionally I do retreats here where we live for the health
reasons, and because of the other book I’m writing. We’re kind of backing off a little bit on
the number of people coming here do solo retreats with me, but I’m hoping we will be able
to do more of that and I’m hoping that more of my students will be able to assist me with
that. So the best thing that I can say is to monitor
what’s going on at the website and people can contact us directly
for more specific information at [email protected] Rick: Okay, and I think I have your address. I’ll listen to this and make sure I’ve
got that right and I’ll put it on your page on so people can just click
on it and go, because we won’t bother trying to spell it right now. Great! I really appreciate the time you’ve spent,
I really enjoyed this conversation. I realize that there are a lot of things we
could have discussed that we didn’t get to, we just sort of went down this avenue
and that avenue. And if people are intrigued by what they heard,
there’s a lot more to learn and read about if they want to read your book and delve into
what you’re teaching. So thanks. Culadasa: Thank you very much. It’s my pleasure to do this. Rick: Thanks for listening or watching everybody. This is an ongoing series as you know. Go to to get notified by email
of future interviews, to check out past ones, or to explore. There is a menu called ‘At a Glance’ – go
to that and it will summarize everything we have to offer at the site. And of course there will be a page for Culadasa
and for this interview, with links to his website and his email and his book, and so
on. Next week I believe I’m interviewing Pamela
Wilson again. I interviewed her about 5 or 6 years ago so
it will be a little catch-up with Pamela. So thanks Culadasa, it’s been a joy. Culadasa: Thank you, it has been a joy. Rick: Yeah, I really enjoyed it and thanks
to everyone listening or watching, we’ll see you next week. {BATGAP theme music plays}


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