Two long time readers at Takuin.com approached me at the beginning of the year and asked if they could interview me for my own website. Sounded interesting to me, so I said yes. The three of us have spent the last few weeks emailing back and forth, and these posts are the result of those emails. In reading over this interview, I seem to be more personal than I expected, if that is the right way to say it. And I hope anything I say is not misinterpreted. But if any of you need clarity, please post in the comments below and I'll do my best to clear it up.
The questions in this particular post, were asked by Jake.
Jake: Tell us about your path to becoming a spiritual teacher.
Takuin: There was no path, and as I see it, I was never a spiritual teacher. I understand that some people might say otherwise, and that is fine. But at no time have I ever thought of myself as a spiritual teacher.
My only real concern was to learn how to speak...so to speak. Not the physical means of speaking, but rather, the way I might make sense of an event that seemed to make no sense at all.
J: And what was that event?
TM: Some have called it awakening, liberation, or enlightenment, amongst other things. It took place on December 1st, 2006. I place no real importance on the event itself...
J: I have heard you say that before, but first I want to ask what about that event made no sense?
TM: Well, any kind of awakening, or whatever we call it, is a leap beyond logic. It is beyond what we know, in any meaningful way. It has been called many things but as it is a leap beyond, it can never be captured.
A major problem of the spiritual seeker is the desperate need to understand the realization; to understand something essentially beyond the powers of understanding. The only thing the seeker can do is make the awakening into something understandable, and therefore, allow themselves the potential opportunity to chase it down. But unfortunately, they can never actually chase awakening; they can only chase their ideas of awakening.
J: So the seeker is not actually seeking enlightenment, but their idea of what enlightenment is?
TM: That is it, right there.
J: After that 'accident' happened to you, you must have been curious, right? Did you seek out anyone for answers, or at least try to find some explanation of what happened to you?
TM: I did, but that probably lasted about a week. Even though I had no idea what this thing was that happened, I could clearly see the workings of this mind. And when I heard the explanations from others, telling me 'your experience was this, your experience was that', it was all meaningless.
"What was I to do? When they told me it was this or that, whether I accepted it, rejected it, or did nothing, I was still the same creature. It did not touch the life that was there."
I suspected that if there were discoveries of any kind, they would be made alone, beyond the muddy paw prints of others.
That turned out to be fairly true.
J: Do you think it is a trap impossible to break out of? I mean, the wheel within wheel way the search seems to go on?
TM: Clearly it is not impossible to leave behind, but the cost is great. The seeker IS the search, and you cannot separate the two. If one hopes to escape the search (which is itself a search), one has to die to what they have known, and that effectively kills the need for enlightenment in the first place.
But ending the search can be a trick, too. For most people it is like holding a live hand grenade behind their backs and thinking, "As long as I don't see it, it is ok to keep holding on to it."
J: And when it blows up, they grab another grenade with their remaining good hand!
Just drop it, already. ;-)
J: You mentioned earlier that you place no real importance on your 'accident'. Why do you think that is?
TM: What about it is important? We can look at it, and analyze it from a distance...
We can say, life changed, and you lived differently than you would have. Possibly yes, possibly no. We can say, you would have never written all of those words without that accident. Sure, I can see that. We can say, you would have never met the people you have met over the past 5 years. Probably true. And so on. But why is that so important? The specifics, I mean.
A million other things could have happened on that same day, and each one could have led to an interesting life. That doesn't invalidate any of life's particular circumstances, but life and living are not the analysis of life and living.
That kind of analysis is just another way for us to solidify a vague aspect into something solid so we might be able to deal with it better.
It is an act of war.
J: Why do you say that?
TM: Once a target becomes solid, you can build turrets and defences. You can also learn how to manipulate the thing for your own personal gain.
If we are speaking about enlightenment, it is necessary to make it into something in order to take it. And that is why so much time is spent with words, trying to understand it. You cannot take what you cannot understand.
"People want to know what it looks like, what are the symptoms, what are the smells, the sensations, the lightness or the heaviness, or whatever it is. Why do they so desperately want to know these things?"
J: Maybe because if they have those sign posts, they'll know when they are getting close to the destination?
And what does that mean? What are they actually getting close to?
J: An idea?
TM: An idea handed to them. I have heard it called second-hand living, and that is not far from the truth.
J: So could we also say, they are looking for something, searching for something they have already created? They create the idea of what enlightenment should be, then look for the idea they just came up with? Is that right?
TM: That's it.
J: That is fucking cruel! Haha...
TM: It is.
But I don't want to be cruel about it myself, because the spiritual seeker already has enough to deal with. It is the ultimate abusive relationship, with the ultimate asshole spouse. ;-)
The reality of it is cruel enough, so I don't care to make it worse.
J: We've talked a number of times on Skype, and I've never found you to be cruel. Have you heard that you're cruel from other people?
TM: Not really, no.
It is always difficult with the written word, you know...it is sometimes hard to hear the tone of the words. It is easy to misinterpret.
I have been told that I am unsympathetic, which I don't entirely disagree with. I can understand that one. But I am largely supportive of the people I speak with. For me, even if spiritual seeking is an impossibility, I love hearing stories and love listening to others talk about their own searching and where it has taken them. And I really don't think people come to me for answers, anyway. Sometimes they have, but that is an attitude I do not tolerate easily.
J: That has always been a problem for teachers I think (even though you say you don't think of yourself as one); those students that want a pointer, versus the ones that want to have their hands held and be told how to do it.
TM: I don't know how difficult it is for teachers. Many seem to be in the business of accumulation, anyway; to get more and more students to spread their light across the world or whatever it is.
It seems to me, if one is a spiritual teacher, their goal should be to lose their students, and not keep them.
J: How so?
TM: If I am a teacher, and the same people keep coming to me year after year, asking the same questions, then what the hell am I doing? Certainly some of that responsibility is on the student, but that would also be my failure as a teacher. If I can't give a student the tools they need to learn on their own, to explore on their own, within a single year, that is my fault.
If that were the case, I should just give up and go fishing or something.
J: Haha! Nice!
You started Takuin.com in December of 2006, a few weeks after your accident. And by my calculations, you've written over 320 articles. But recently you've talked about stepping away from all of that. Why did you decide to give it up?
TM: It is not a matter of giving up anything, necessarily. The site for me was a vehicle of exploration, and it still is.
Originally, the whole point of making Takuin.com was to find a way to speak, or to make sense of the senseless, as I said earlier. But that quickly changed when I realized that could never happen.
"So somewhere along the line, it changed into an exploration of many things, but the underlying subject was always one of enlightenment, more or less."
Looking back into older posts, I cannot really see a progression, or a change of any kind. But I do see how my writing has changed from chunky to sparse. And that seems to be the direction I am moving in now.
J: What direction is that?
TM: I am learning that verbosity is not necessary. At all. Fewer and fewer words are needed to fully express living, and that is where all of this is headed. I don't know exactly what this means, and I don't know exactly how this will express itself at Takuin.com, but it will happen soon.
Besides, I have never really been the kind of writer that plans what he is going to say, so I will not know where this is headed until it comes out. I'll be just as surprised as you will, Jake.
J: Are you worried about losing the readers you've gained over the last 5 years?
TM: Not at all. If they stay, read, comment, and involve themselves in what I am doing, I'll love them. And if they leave for greener pastures, I'll still love them. I do suspect that many will leave, however.
Just from my own observation, I seem to have primarily two kinds of readers; those interested in exploration, and those wanting to be told what to do. I have no interest in doling out objectives and praising them as rules of living. It is horrifying and unfair, as it stifles and kills one's ability to explore and truly live for themselves. I will no longer take part in any of that.
J: Have you done that?
TM: Not to that extent. At least I hope not! I have always avoided telling anyone how to do something...how to get this or that, and so on. I have always attempted to turn it back onto them, because everything they hope to see is there already.
J: Was there a specific moment that led to this decision? Or was it something that slowly happened over time?
TM: I think it was a gradual thing. But there may have been a final straw. I am still undecided about whether or not what I observed was the defining moment, but it certainly didn't help, haha.
J: What was it?
TM: As you can probably imagine, Japan is a popular place for foreigners to visit for spiritual reasons. Perhaps not as popular as India, but still, there is a lot of that activity going on here. So it is not terribly difficult to find spiritual seminars and retreats and that sort of thing, if you know where to look.
I sometimes like to go to those places to watch people. I won't pay to get in to a seminar, but I like to find a place out of view and just watch the people in attendance.
"I like to see that activity; the movement, the action, all taking place in a rather concentrated space."
Early last year, I was sitting at just such an event. I saw a group of about 10 to 15 people sitting in some kind of meditation. One of them had a small child, maybe 5 or 6 years old. And children, being children, are not always so keen on sitting still and saying OM, or whatever. The father of the child kept trying to get the boy to sit still, and there was a bit of a struggle there.
Finally, the boy asked, "What are you doing?"
The father replied, "Trying to meditate."
The boy asked, "Why?"
The father, a bit frustrated answered, "Because I want to be happy."
Then the father said something that stunned me...
"And if you want to be happy, you'll have to do the same thing."
I. Was. Horrified.
I have told this story to a few people, and most of them don't think of it as such a big deal. But to me this was horrific. I was nearly in tears.
How dare he. How dare he set up his child in a fruitless search, teaching him to believe that, on his own, he is inadequate. I couldn't believe what I was hearing.
"Is that what we want for our children? For them to conform to a system? Do we want to teach them in order to be good, to be happy, they must perform actions in the same manner as everyone else? If the child fails to do this, what will they think of themselves?"
I sat with that event for some time. I am not saying it was the sole reason for my decision, but it did cause me to stop for a bit and explore.
And to be fair, there is no way to know if the child even heard what his father said. It could have been in one ear, and out the other...
...but I really doubt that.
J: At first glance I would've been tempted to say, "Big deal," but I see where you are coming from.
As far as changing direction, did your family and friends support this change? Or is this even something you would have talked to them about?
TM: I mentioned this to one or two people, but it wasn't anything I felt the need to really talk about with anyone. And to be honest, I do not think anyone in my family has ever read anything I have written. We have certainly never really talked about it, but not for any particular reason.
J: They've never read anything? Are you serious?
TM: I can't know for sure, because as I said, we have not talked about it. But I am fairly certain of that.
I don't feel bad about it at all. They don't ask me for spiritual advice, and they don't think I am any more strange than I always have been, so it is fine.
I think I prefer it this way. My friends and my family really know nothing of what I have written, and that is just fine. And if they ever ask what I have been doing, I just say I have been writing and growing my beard, and that is good enough for them. ;-)
This interview continues in the next post.