Buddha At The Gas Pump Interview With David, Part 3

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David: …to all of my spiritual sources I am in utter appreciation of everything that I have been fortunate enough to come across in a spiritual context and I thank all of the sources — they know who they are — who have been part of my spiritual journey but that doesn't mean to say that I could not have achieved this in other ways.

Rick: Yeah, I was going to say, it could be that you might have learned a completely different collection of things and had the same outcome, you know.

David: Yes, I would have found a way because to me it was driving urgency that was conducting this whole process.

Rick: And there are some spiritual teachers who have said that that in itself is the real engine on the train of spiritual development. It's the — as Shankara, I think put it — the "vehement intensity," it might have been Patanjali — I don't know which but that it’s that determination or that resolve that is the primary driver of our progress and I suppose whatever techniques we pick up in order to facilitate things are perhaps secondary to that.

David: That's nicely said. Without that fervor, that passionate motivation, that burning desire, you can practice techniques for decades and not achieve the final result.

Rick: Right, which is not to say that — we have plenty of time so I don't think we are diverging but — which is not to say that a person should sit down and grit their teeth and strain and contort themselves necessarily — that's not, I don't think, what you mean by ‘fervor and burning desire.’ It's something more fundamental than that. It's not an intensification of egoic manipulation, it’s something that comes from a deeper level.

David: That's correct.

Rick: Yeah, just want to throw in that cautionary note lest we mislead anybody. You can stop me if we're getting ahead of the story but let's go back to the point where you learn to meditate and you began to have profound experience. Is it worth elaborating on those initial experiences?

David: Oh yeah. [laughing]

Rick: Ok, let's do that.

David: There were so many that most of them have vanished but the words satori or samadhi or even epiphany, as it's used in certain literary contexts, become descriptive and useful to understand what was happening. This going beyond the mind, flashing into the source, the center of awareness — the centerless center of awareness — that became the context of my development in and out of meditation. In meditation, which you might call raja yoga, I meditated on a daily basis, twice a day. Sometimes for long periods; often for long periods and then would return to more discriminative context where I was studying. So for me, my own process was a mixture of many yogas. You know the traditional way to understand in a Vedic context is that there is karma yoga, bhakti yoga, raja yoga, jnana yoga. For me several were going on simultaneously, or perhaps even all.

Rick: I remember reading on your website — I don't have to remember too far back because I just read it about an hour ago — that you were saying that you experienced a lot of pain and angst. I don't know if you used that word — due to the sort of contrast, I think you said, between individuality and universality; like the two hadn't meshed properly yet and obviously something was being worked out in order for them to do so. Maybe it would be good to describe that a bit.

David: I think I said something like, "I became aware of the utter contradiction between individuality and pure consciousness,” something to that effect. During that time, which would be like a span of about three to four years, I burned through all the sheaths, all the inner casings of a human life and became radically clarified in consciousness. That took about three full years of regular meditation combined with ardent inquiry and study. This is not something that I put down, this is not something that I would shelve and say, "Yeah, I need a vacation from this." To me it was like live or die, I either would live this way for this understanding and experience or to me, I would just die as some pathetically normal character; some kind of conventional American, you know, stuffed with material possessions or lack of them. Whether it was rich or poor, it didn't matter — I wanted to get to the heart of the issue of what existentially this situation is that we live in — this world.

Rick: Were you aware that you were burning through sheaths or did you just feel like there was a lot of stuff going on, you know, you're working stuff out.

David: No. It was happening.

Rick: So you were kind of aware distinctly of specific sheaths as you burned through them? By sheaths I believe we mean concentric rings like those Russian dolls, kind of more and more deeper, more essential layers of awareness or whatever — you can probably say it better but — were you aware of this progression specifically? “Oh, now I've burned though this one, OK, now I'm working on this one.” Was it like that?

David: There was certainly an understanding that I was progressing towards deeper and deeper levels of consciousness though subtlety, from gross to subtle to transcending. That was completely clear for me and I simply knew that the process wasn't completed and that more application of my sadhana was necessary. That's how I progressed, like that. I just used my own natural understanding as a barometer, as a measure for what I had or had not attained. Also reading texts like the Upanishads , the Gita , certain Buddhist texts, Walt Whitman, Rainer Maria Rilke, the poet—there were a whole slew of spiritual influences there on a literary level—Sri Aurobindo, J. Krishnamurti. I really indulged who I thought to be the genuine Buddhas, if you will — to allude to the title of your show — and to see if my progress was in fact, real or a figment of my imagination. I was completely conscious of the possibility of self-deception — let's put it that way, because this is all about subjective life — it’s all about you. You ultimately have to be the one who discerns your own realization.

Rick: Did you have any teacher at this point whom you respected that you could interact with to kind of check or give you feedback?

David: Yes. The tradition and linage into which I was meditating provided a great deal, amount of knowledge and understanding and courses to attend, etc.

Rick: So there were living embodied teachers or a teacher that you could sort of say, "Hey I'm experiencing this, what do you think about that?" And then they could give you some kind of feedback and that seemed to be reliable and useful?

David: Yes.

Rick: Good. Good. You were going to college during all this time. Were you able to integrate this whole process you were going through into your studies? I mean, were you able to, sort of, write term papers or theses and whatnot about what you were going through to kind of give it double duty out of what you were experiencing?

David: Yes. If you were to read my term papers in college, they’re all about consciousness and trying to apply an understanding of consciousness to a particular field. And I used those as context for self-inquiry and for the expression for my devotion and love towards the beauty of the text that I happened to be studying at that time. For example if I were studying Shakespeare, I was really into the text itself as a work of art, I wasn't just using it as a means to an end; I was considering it almost on the level of scripture, perhaps on the level of scripture itself. That's how I treated things during that time. Everything was taken with great seriousness.