Peter’s Interview with Vince Horn of Buddhist Geeks audio show
To listen to the interview click here: Entering into Natural Meditation (22 minutes)
Read a partial transcription
Peter: […] I was able to present Buddhist teachings on emptiness and really open it up in a way that people could have a direct taste of the unconditional dimension, nature of mind, so…
Vince: Yeah that seems like a primary thing that you point to in your work.
Peter: What I point to in my work, is this. When I say this, I am pointing to this at both the conditioned level, how we are in our bodied existence for example, sitting here together in this studio but also pointing to a dimension, which goes beyond the finite, which goes beyond the conditioned reality. So pointing to this as pure awareness we could say or in the Zen tradition is no mind or emptiness, different words are used in different traditions but for me they’re all pointing to same this timeless, unconditioned reality.
Vince: And I had a chance to go to one of your events several months ago. And the first thing you did is to engage the audience by asking “What is awareness?”, and you are asking people to give their answers and then you are kind of engaging in a dialogue about awareness and continuing to ask further questions. I want to know if you could say a little bit about that method of teaching, what that’s about?
Peter: Well, what I find dialogue very effective and silence in dialogue and weaving of those together to be a very powerful way for moving beyond just being identified with what’s happening at the feeling, thinking sensory level and move into present scene what’s often called the nondual. So yes, I have in a way adapted the type of deconstructive enquiry that you get in the Madhyamika tradition of Mahayana Buddhism and I have tried to adapt that so it can work in a conversational setting. So, in the Madhyamika the enquiry is driven by what’s called “unfindability analysis,” which means that when we look for something that particularly our souls but that could be other things we can’t find a substantial reality behind the word behind the concept. So I have adapted that so we can use unfindability enquiry and we can employ it in conversational context .
Vince: And what do you find people discover in that process?
Peter: Well in a way they discover no-thing or no-thingness, they discover emptiness, they discover something that we can’t think about. They discover something that has no identifying characteristics we can’t say even that had “exists or doesn’t exists” so we encounter, lets say, the mystery of being. But, without any need to try to understand it. So we go beyond the need to know, we go beyond the need to be doing and then we engage with we enter this reality right now in a way that we are complete nothing more needs to happen we don’t need to know anything more
Vince: Does that stick for people often?
Peter: Then it comes and goes, so in the context of a cost, people may presence the non-duals. Presence pure awareness. Ten or fifteen minutes. Both when they’re open and engaged with other people and also in a contemplative mode or contemplative mood. Then, people work at embodying the experience. Bringing it into their daily life.
Vince: So I understand the deconstructive dialogue is just one component of how you work with people, and what they’d be doing with you…
Peter: It’s a major component, the work that we do in a workshop setting. The dialogues that people have with me. But, in a nine-month course, they also do a lot of work with each other. So they’re working at developing the skills in supporting each other. In seeing through the sense of being an individual, a discrete person. And seeing through, into this selflessness, of themselves. So people support each other, in that way.
Vince: Gotcha. In your program, do you do any interior, formal meditation, the way that we think about it typically?
Peter: No. The meditation falls out of the process. Natural meditation emerges when people find that there’s nothing more that they have to think about. So, when the energy of trying to understand, or trying to get somewhere. Trying to pursue a goal. When that energy dissipates, then people enter into a state of natural contemplation. That can either be very interiorized, and very deep and very blissful, or in other circumstances it can be aware, open and connected with other people.
Vince: Wow, that’s really interesting. That you don’t have any more formal sitting practices, given your background.
Peter: I invite people to do just sitting, but often I introduce it in a way that people discover that they’re already meditating. So it’s a very flexible practice in the way that I introduce it. In just sitting, we simply sit and, in a sense, the practice is complete. As soon as we’re sitting because we’re not practicing by looking for some reference point in terms of what we should or shouldn’t be doing. So the practice consists of doing whatever we’re doing. We can’t not be doing what we’re doing, so the practice is always complete.
Vince: Interesting. And do you find, with an emphasis on that, that you are able to sidestep or… I’m not sure of the wording, but there are some obstacles to traditional practices that have stronger goals or stronger techniques.
Peter: Well, I think the primary thing in my approach is that we’re not looking for obstacles. If you look for obstacles, they’re there. They arise. It’s very easy to create. That something is an obstacle. Something is in the way of me being in that state of real completion in the moment. So we work at what sometimes is called the fruition or the result level, meaning that we try to be in that state of feeling complete, being at the end of the path. Being at that point where there’s nowhere further to go. There’s no going backwards, there’s no going forwards. So, in a way, the work introduces that possibility and invites people just to be in that way.
Vince: This is something that I always wonder when I think about that kind of approach, because my own personal experience has been almost the opposite way in. And yet, I feel like they’re banging my head against the wall enough. I started to relax. But I’m wondering, do you ever find people running into the issue of feeling that they’re complete, but in some ways, fooling themselves? Or, in some ways, a slight delusion about what that means?
Peter: It depends upon how seriously you take your thinking. You can think, “this is an illusion. I’m not really at that place of fulfillment. I’m not presencing the non-dual.” If you take that thought seriously, then you’re not in that place, because you’re still thinking dualistically. In terms of being on a path and arriving at a goal. Being there and not being there. But it’s possible for that thought just to move through awareness, and it just moves and flows through without identification, without taking it seriously. So, in that case, anything can arise, without producing any disturbance. Because if we’re presencing pure awareness, we can feel, we can see that there’s nothing that can be disturbed. Awareness that self can’t be disturbed by anything. Which is why it’s often described as being in-perturb-able, indestructible.
Vince: That sounds like it still takes some level of sincerity to not be fooled, in particular, by thoughts. It sounds like there’s still a sense of sincerity, or a sense of remembering, or coming back, and a discipline of some sort. But it sounds like a discipline that’s not really trying to get somewhere. Is that an accurate way of talking about things?
Peter: I wouldn’t describe it like that, because nothing is needed. So in a way again that’s the invitation to be in the space in which we don’t need anything. That we could just be with this, be with whatever is, exactly as it is, without needing things to be different. So there’s no discipline involved in that because that would be a doing. But there is I guess a sense of just becoming more and more familiar with this space and then just tasting it and acknowledging that yes when we’re in this space there is nothing more that we need to do. So then a deep resting just naturally occurs.
Vince: Sounds nice. I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit more about the kind of innovations that you’ve stumbled across and that you’ve put into practice and how that relates to Western people in particular.
Peter: I think one of the things I’ve done is to take people’s aspirations and make them real. So as Buddhists we have a lot of aspirations and its very easy to think that, “Ah yes emptiness, that’s really great, or having a taste of nirvana, or touching the nature of mind. That’s really great but really it’s beyond me. Yes, they are great masters who can abide in those states but no, for me its really going to require a lot of practice, many many years and then maybe I’ll have a glimpse.”
So I feel that in a way we shortchange ourselves through thinking in that way and that it’s much, much simpler than we often believe. And so part of the process in a way is going beyond those type of fixed beliefs and saying okay. So yes, the teachings are telling me that I can’t know reality as such, that I can’t know pure consciousness that’s beyond the mind. Okay. I can’t know it so I will let go of that need to know. It’s in a way we don’t believe that we cannot know the nature of consciousness itself. We keep telling ourselves that we can know because we’ve been conditioned that, theoretically at least, we can know everything, there’s nothing beyond the reach of the mind. And so it just takes time and touching the mind itself and realizing that there’s no object of knowledge here, there’s nothing to know. That’s why we can’t know the nature of mind, it has no structure. It’s content-less. So if something is content-less we have no subject matter. There’s nothing to see, nothing to taste, nothing to know. So that, that becomes self evident when we confront that 20, 50, 100 times. And then in someway then we become convinced.
Vince: And then what happens?
Peter: And then we just… we’re here in the way that we are now in which everything is arising. We’re fully cognizant of each other, appreciating each other, fully taking in past present & future and also aware of awareness itself. And aware that there’s no one who is aware of awareness. So if we’re looking for who is aware of the fact that there’s awareness happening at the moment we can’t find who is aware.
Vince: So, I’d be interested just in closing to ask you what kinds of things might you offer to people who listen to a show called “Buddhist Geeks?”
Vince: (laughs) Because you clearly have delineated yourself in some ways from more traditional kind of approaches. I’d be interested in what you’d have to offer.
Peter: What I would invite people to do is to relax firstly, not take these spiritual endeavor, not take them so seriously. So just to relax, to begin just to accept themselves, accept things as they are, not to create some grandiose goal in the future of achieving full enlightenment. But to back off from that a little and to say “okay look just to taste Nirvana, just to have like a 5 minute resting in that state of pure awareness, that would be great.”
Then I can develop it from there. So that is within my reach. That is possible. So then to engage in not just the work that I’ve developed but a lot of teachings that are available now in the non-dual tradition that make available the presenting of awareness, just allowing us to be with what is, without any struggle existing beyond pleasure and pain.