ANDREW COHEN: I'd like to begin by asking
you: Who is the most enlightened person you know of? Who has touched your heart
the most and in whom do you have the greatest faith—alive or dead?
The Buddha would be one. Ramana
Maharshi comes to mind. And I would say that I get that feeling from some of
the Tibetan masters. And in the contemporary world, H.H. the Dalai Lama and
AC: Okay. So now what I want you to do is
to imagine—even though I know this is impossible—but anyway, just
for fun, imagine that you're some conglomeration of the Buddha, H.H. the Dalai
Lama, Ramana Maharshi and Sasaki Roshi. Imagine that you have embraced their
minds. You have become one with their minds and one with their enlightenment—and
one with their profound wisdom that comes from beyond the mind.
Alright. Sounds wonderful.
AC: Kaisa Puhakka has stepped aside and
now she's just an empty vehicle for enlightened mind. So now, Enlightened One,
I would like to ask you a couple of questions.
The first question is: Transpersonal psychologists seem to be in a double
bind. On one hand, they have become experts in using the mind to conceptualize,
communicate and facilitate the subtleties of the unfoldment of the evolution
of consciousness. On the other hand, in order to truly know the real meaning
of the spiritual path, we all have to be willing to give up not only the need
to know but also the need
to be the one who knows. Enlightened One,
what do you have to say about this intriguing double bind that the transpersonal
psychologists are in? What do you have to say about the enormous challenge of
renouncing the great temptation of the intellectual and personal empowerment
of transpersonal psychology's all-encompassing, profoundly clarifying, intellectually
satisfying theories of human development?
The predicament that the transpersonal
theorists find themselves in is kind of a heightened human predicament—the
human predicament being that we really want to know. It's very hard to legislate
against this instinct to want to know, or this desire or longing to want to
know, which is very fundamental and has to do with our desire to touch directly
what is real. And so this is just one other expression of it.
There is something very funny about this, of course, because, as you said,
in order to really touch enlightenment directly or be enlightened, you have
to give up the need to know. So how do you get out of that? It's a very profound
predicament. Because if somebody tells you, "Just give up the need to know
and that's how you'll get there"—it ain't gonna work.
AC: So, what would you say to transpersonal
psychologists? What would you tell them from your perspective of enlightened
What I would tell them is that in making
maps, as they do—they characterize their theories as maps—if you
do it like a child who is building sand castles, then there's nothing wrong
with it. The child in his or her most creative mode is excited when the waves
come in and wipe out the castle; the child screams with joy as the whole thing
crumbles. Then they get the chance to build another one. If we have the appreciation
that these maps are something that we have fun doing and that stimulates our
minds, but that there are always an infinite number of other ways of drawing
maps, then there's nothing wrong with the map-making activity, just as there's
nothing wrong with the child playing in the sand.
Now the trouble with the map making is when one takes one's map very seriously
and says, "Well, this is the correct
road map, and there's no other
map that is as good as this one." That's when you are implicitly making
the claim that you actually know
the territory, that you have walked
it, and that there's some kind of correspondence between the territory and the
map. As soon as the map making ceases to be fun and play, as soon as we take
the maps too seriously, I think it actually becomes a hindrance to walking the
terrain. If you are reading a map when you're walking, you're missing everything
along the way. As Sasaki Roshi says, "You're running around thinking that
there's some kind of a spiritual path or great way laid out in front of you
like a road. You are fools. There is no road in front of you. The great way
comes into being as you walk." There is no road that is ready-made, let
alone a map that will describe the road. The road itself comes into being in
AC: And besides your advice on making the
maps, what would you tell them?
Besides being map makers, as human beings
who are concerned with becoming enlightened, they also need to sometimes just
do the walking.
AC: Without the maps?
Yes, everybody needs to do the walking
without the maps.
AC: Enlightened One, do you think that because
of their professional role, there is a strong potential in the ego of the transpersonal
psychologist to take refuge in
knowing in a way that protects them from
the raw, undefended vulnerability of
not knowing or
having no idea?
What I mean to say is: Do you think that it's possible that the subtle, comprehensive
and all-inclusive developmental theories of transpersonal psychology could be,
from a certain point of view,
the most sophisticated ego defense mechanism
Well, certainly it has the potential to
be a very powerful way of making you feel comfortable that you really know the
lay of the land and also that you have all but arrived.
AC: Do you think that the challenge of letting
go, for the transpersonal psychologist, could potentially be that much more
difficult because, in their case, there is that much more to let go of? Indeed,
the direct experience of profound letting go, of having to radically abandon
identification with knowing or being the one who knows, could be that much more
Yes, that is true. Though I find that basically
to be true of all
intellectual-type people. With them it's the philosophies
or intellectual constructions that get in the way, and with other people it's
something else. But certainly, here the irony of it is heightened because here
we have people who essentially are seeking to free themselves from all these
trappings—whereas other people may not have that as a goal. In wanting
to pursue freedom and enlightenment, the theories become the trappings, and
they become very, very powerful trappings.