Monthly Archives: August 2013

A test of willingness

Part 1
Part 2 – This article
Part 3

As I mentioned in the previous article, Wolfgang (my teacher) told me that he would teach me but I would have to show him that I’m sincere first. I would have to show my sincerity by ‘passing a test’.

I have met people who have the impression that it is unfair to test an aspiring student before teaching her, but this impression comes from the understanding that it is the teacher who ‘transforms’ the student. My experience however is that for any kind of learning we have to make efforts ourselves. A teacher can only inspire, demonstrate and give advice. A simple example: If we want to learn how to play the guitar, we will have to play the notes ourselves. If we don’t want to play a single note, we can at the very best only learn at a superficial level (conceptual) and not at a deeper, more profound level (experiential).

I want to relate a story about a young man I have met during my time in Taiwan. I had given a guest lecture at a university in Taipei City and a student approached me after the lecture. I don’t remember what the exact subject was, but it had something to do with the inner dimensions of live. This student told me that he really wanted to me to teach him more about what I had spoken about. I did not commit myself to doing anything yet, but we exchanged contact details and would keep in touch.

Over the course of the next couple of days I started receiving emails from this young man in which he stressed that it is very important to him to learn more from me and that he would also like me to teach at his student organization. Even though teaching and sharing is one of my great passions, I was not able to commit myself to spending time with him because I had a slightly disturbed feeling about it all. It was my impression that he was talking a lot about what he would like me to do for him, and not much about what he would like to do for him.

Even though Elly was against it, I decided to give him a test. I went against the advice of my wife because I have learned to trust my feelings: they always have something important to say.

I learned from Wolfgang that in order to test the willingness of a person properly, it is important to test that person on a subject that is (slightly) difficult for him. I had the impression with this person that money (greed) is a difficult subject for him, so I told him: “I will ask for a financial compensation for our work and time together. I realise that you are a student, so I will only ask you to give me what you feel comfortable with. Any amount you feel comfortable with, is fine.”

The answer I got from him was very surprising to me, but also very relieving: “It’s very kind of you to want to work with me, but I do not think it is on my priority list right now.” And I have never heard of this young man since!

So back to me and my test. When I don’t feel well (emotionally), I gain weight fast (for reference: at one point I was almost 80kg and I have a height of only 1m65). As mentioned in the previous article, when I met Wolfgang I wasn’t in a happy state of mind so I was overweight. The assignment he gave me was to lose 10 kilograms in 3 months time and to contact him after I have reached the goal.

My motivation to reach the goal was high because I was so excited about the possibility of working with Wolfgang. It became easy for me to lose the 10 kilograms, and I don’t see them coming back again.

Part 1
Part 2 – 本文
Part 3

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Multitasking

A student once asked his teacher: “Do you make efforts in your practice of meditation, master?”
The master replied: “Yes, I do. When hungry, I eat; when tired, I sleep.”

The student asked: “Does not everyone make these same efforts, master?”
The master answered: “Not exactly. When they are eating, they think of a hundred kinds of necessities; when they are about to sleep, they ponder over a thousand affairs.”

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A special meeting

Part 1 – This article
Part 2
Part 3

From time to time I come across people who want to know how to identify if somebody is the right teacher for them. With that topic in mind, I want to share how my first meeting with Wolfgang (my teacher) went. This was truly one of the most significant moments of my life, but before I can describe it I believe a little bit of contextual information is in place.

When I reflect back on my early youth, I can say that I was born in a family of ‘seekers’. I remember quite clearly that my father was always studying either some religious texts or some scientific articles, and that my mother often had fundamental questions and doubts about religion; and this was well before they were introduced to spirituality.

It’s my guess that this atmosphere of looking for meaning and answers in life is why I felt a great attraction towards spirituality in my early teens. For about ten years (from the age of 12 to 22) I was slowly, but rather unsystematically, studying spiritual philosophies. I sometimes think of this period as a long flirt. I was reading some books, watching some recordings of discourses, listening to discussions and even attending workshops on spirituality, but it never became an integrated part of my life.

That changed when I broke up with my ex-girlfriend. That break-up strongly awakened the desire in me to be free from mental suffering and to be truly happy. Barely one or two months later I met Wolfgang.

My parents had organised a gathering at their house on that day. Swami Veda and Amit Goswami were going to enter into a dialogue with each other on, as I recall, the relationship between the findings of quantum physics and of spirituality. Several people were going to attend this meeting, among which Wolfgang.

When Wolfgang entered my parents’ home my mother introduced him to me. I somehow became a lot more alert and aware of everything when we were introduced to each other. What stands out to me now is how clearly I am able to remember those first 30 or so seconds of our introduction, and what I find interesting is that Wolfgang remembers them quite clearly as well. I remember where we shook hands, how we shook hands and what we said to each other. One peculiar thing is that I somehow managed to, in my very first sentence to him, blurt out that it would be great if I could learn from him. I was not wanting to learn from him before we had met, but it is the first thing I said when we did meet.

Of course, I wanted to speak with him some more, but he was quite busy that evening and I did not really get a chance. In hindsight that was a good thing, because if I would have been speaking I probably would have missed a clear sign that he was the right teacher for me: Whenever I sat down on the chair next to him, while waiting to say something to him, my mind would go blank. And that ‘blankness’ would be there for as long as I would sit next to him; when I got up before having said anything to him my mind became active again. I cannot explain why it happened like this (and to be honest, I also do not find it interesting to know), but it was something I could clearly observe.

Finally, at the very end of the evening, I had a chance to talk to him. He told me that he was willing to teach me, but I would have to pass a test first. I will speak about that test in my next article.

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Heart of a Buddha

This is an anecdote from the life of the Chinese poet and statesman of the Song Dynasty, Su Dong Po.

One day Su Dong Po was chatting with his good friend, the monk Fo Yin. At a whim Su Dong Po asked: “What do you see when you look at me?” The monk replied: “A Buddha.”

Then the monk asked Su Dong Po: “What do you see when you look at me?” Su Dong Po, being rather mischievous, gave Fo Yin a wry smile and said: “A pile of shit!”

After talking a bit more, the two parted ways. When Su Dong Po got home, he told his wife about this conversation and was expecting the lady to praise his wittiness. His wife laughed and said: “What a fool you are!”

Su Dong Po was puzzled and urged his wife to explain. She said: “You see Fo Yin as a pile of shit, because your heart is a pile of shit. Fo Yin sees you as a Buddha, because he has the heart of a Buddha.”

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Books I love

One of the things that helps me to stay balanced in daily life is regularly reminding myself of spiritual teachings. One of the ways in which I do that is by reading a few pages from inspring books every day. Nowadays I do not read with the primary goal of gaining new information. My main intention is to keep the spiritual wisdom fresh and alive in my mind, so that it becomes easier to apply it in daily life.

Some of the books I’ve read have filled me with awe, wonder, joy and curiosity. If you are looking for any book to read, I would recommend any of these to you. If you have any recommendations for me, do let me know about them in the comments.

General Spirituality

  • Conversations with God (Books One, Two & Three) & Friendship with God, by Neale Donald Walsch
    These four books were the first I’ve read on spirituality. I was about 12 years old when I read these books and I read them with joy and excitement. The books touched me deeply and they have shaped my thinking. I reread them to this day.
  • The Art of Joyful Living & Love and Family Life, by Swami Rama
    Two books that I have found useful and practical in many aspects of daily life. As with all of Swami Rama’s books, I find them easy to understand and to-the-point.
  • Sacred Journey, by Swami Rama
    A book that I found very interesting and useful. It describes the relationship between life and death and how to make both meaningful. I had already read other books on the subject of death before reading this book, and those books left me convinced that a good understanding of death is necessary to live fully. When it comes to books on death however, this is the one that sticks with me.
  • A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle
    I have read this book more than five years ago, and although I cannot clearly remember the specifics of the book I always find myself recommending this book to others. What I do remember is that I was very much inspired by the book to explore myself more deeply.

Autobiographies

  • Living with the Himalayan Masters, by Swami Rama
  • An Autobiography of Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda

    I love both books because they describe the experiences (struggles) of students of life. To read about people who have encountered and experienced the same negativity that we all experience, and to read about their efforts to understand this negativity and free themselves from it is a source of inspiration and motivation to me

Yoga

  • The Royal Path, by Swami Rama
  • Philosophy of Hatha Yoga, by Swami Veda Bharati
  • Science of Breath, by Swami Rama
  • Path of Fire and Light (Volumes I & II), by Swami Rama
  • Meditation and its Practice, by Swami Rama
  • Yoga and Psychotherapy; by Swami Ajaya, Rudolph Ballentine and Swami Rama
  • Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita, by Swami Rama

    These books all supplement each other in way or the other. The path of yoga is explained in a way that I found easy to understand and easy to connect with different aspects of my life.

Misc

  • From Sex to Superconsciousness, by Osho
    All of Osho’s books are transcripts from his discourses, and this particular discourse caused a lot of controversy in its time. Although the book appears to be about sex from the title, I find that the subject is love and that subject is described in a way that moves me.
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