Therapy and spirituality

by | Dec 5, 2011 | Interviews

Connections Magazine, February 2004 In my first meetings with you, I understood that my chance to meet you was due to a request from Poonjaji in the realm of therapy. What was this request, and how did this request arise in your relation to Poonjaji, or Papaji as you call him? When I first met Papaji the bliss was overwhelming. I fell instantly into the deepest love and peace in our first meeting sitting on his bed. I soon told him that I only wanted to sleep outside his door and take care of him. He laughed and said he had plans for me beyond my wildest dreams. He then told me that a candle that lights other candles is really something. But a candle that lights other candles that light other candles is something else again. I understood then his mission. Not just to enlighten all who came in his door, but for those who received the transmission and caught fire to carry the light to others as the flame passes around the world. During our time together I explained the enneagram and the work I was doing training therapists. He liked the enneagram a lot, and as I was leaving the first time he said to me that my first assignment was not to change anything at all in the outer life. I was to be an example that nothing need change in order to realize and live the truth. He said I should continue in my work and, “Let the therapist and the client both wake up ! ” This is the invitation that I bring to you. Now, quite some time has passed since this request was first formulated, and the form of your answer to this call has evolved. How has this form changed, and what is the difference between what you teach and what we usually know as therapy? That first meeting was fourteen years ago. I left him only to return a month later to bring my wife to meet him. He named her Gangaji, and said she had the purity, nobility, and sattvic nature to take this teaching to the West. I gave my life to supporting Gangaji’s satsang in any way that I could. This became my main focus, as well as writing Wake Up and Roar to announce Papaji to the world. I continued teaching, but it was only to support these other activities. A few years later, Papaji gave me my next assignment, which was to hold satsang. He first sent me to Amsterdam, where I felt I had to clarify certain misunderstandings that had grown up around satsang. All the while the therapy training was continuing, but in the background. Now it has come to the front again. All of what we call therapy today starts with Sigmund Freud and his profound insights into the structure of the egoic mind. Freud, however, as he writes inCivilization and Its Discontents, never had a spiritual experience. Because of this he tried to mentally understand the spiritual experience, and this is impossible. This limited Freud’s outcomes for therapy to having a manageably unhappy life as an ego. Carl Jung of course went deeper. He saw that the goal of therapy was reuniting the ego with the true self. However, Jung’s primary access to the deeper realms lay in analyzing dreams and drawings. Much of what we call Transpersonal Therapy really rests on the foundation of Jung. A possible trap that I see in this, and all therapy, is that there is usually a reinforcement in the belief in the “doer” who brings about transformation or who now has angels and spirit guides to advise the ego, which becomes a spiritual doer. As we stand on the past achievements of the pioneers, we can now access the deep structure of mind and also illuminate the possibility of the human condition, which is a life of freedom and peace. This realization is the basic insight of Vipassana, Zen, and Advaita, that the doer does not in fact exist, but is merely an idea of mind. The therapist must be the embodiment of the living possibility of direct realization. Leela Therapy is not ultimately involved in talking about the past or figuring out who is at fault and why, although this can be very useful at a certain stage or under certain conditions of egoic healing. Leela Therapy, as it has come to develop out of Papaji’s transmission and my background in therapy, addresses the wounding of ego, not to repair it, but to point to the gaping hole of emptiness that the wound reveals and to that which is untouched by all wounding. What I have seen is that it is not how deep the client can go but how deep the therapist is. A true therapist must be awake in order to point out the way. There are two components to successful therapy: the depth of the therapist, and skillful means. I am so happy to report that now the Leela School has a core of teachers who have taken on the function of training new therapists. This is Papaji’s grace, that his transmission of silence has passed through to the next generation. As this burning fire takes root in the West it takes on the psychological insight and language of the 21st century. In this way we do not copy the culture of the past by changing our clothes or our diet, but rather the transmission takes on the clothes and appearance of present time western culture. Since I’ve been in regular contact with you I see that my commitment to life is becoming deep and clear. I feel natural principles emerging from this. I cannot “do ” anything involving my work or relationships. Every encounter is a further chance for me and for the people I meet to wake up, to be quiet. Could you define how you see the natural principles underlying these particular relationships devoted to the truth ? Could that define a new discipline in the field of therapy? What you are discovering is your basic nature as goodness. This is what Lao Tzu in the classic Tao Teh Ching is pointing to when he writes, “When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.” When the egoic idea of yourself as a doer disappears, your natural nature will perform without doubt or confusion. Thus your true nature is in harmony with the Way. All that impedes is the idea of someone in control. When this idea is not followed or believed, love lives the life and acts the part that is appropriate in any moment. A great 14th century Zen master wrote that your true self is formless yet buoyant and responds with versatile facility. This is what you are calling natural principles. They are only seen as principles after the fact; before the arising of spontaneous action no principle is considered. It is only in retrospect that you can perceive the divine order that appears effortlessly out of emptiness. This answers the old question as to the nature of man, whether a blank slate or something else that comes in with birth. Rousseau intuited this basic goodness but could only point to children and philosophy, not his fellow man. Because we do not trust our own basic goodness we rely instead on a superego filled with judgements and idealized codes of conduct, telling us what we should do and how we should act. Often spiritual groups develop a spiritual superego with a new set of judgements and rules of behavior. All of this is the ego imitating what is right and good, or rebelling against it. The great fear is that without an ego and a superego telling it what is right, one would run amok. When you face the fears and stop chasing desires, the dawning clarity reveals that you are already holy perfection without modification or need of change. This recognition of your essential nature flows naturally in each moment, and can be seen to be following a natural order. When the mind imitates this, it is called “going with the flow”. But in truth there is no going, and no flow. In the full stopping and total silence the natural order is revealed, and it appears to be so perfectly going with the flow as to not merit any notice. In meeting with you, something cannot be avoided. This is what brings some people to you, and this is also what seems to select the people that are choosing to be in your presence or leaving. I appreciate very much this absolute freedom that calls all of us into the full responsibility to be here. I see that a certain quality passes to the people who have stayed with you for a while, like a deep call or engagement, and this quality is then passed to the people met outside of the retreats. Maybe it is the transmission I read about in the spiritual scriptures, the real transmission that has nothing to do with words or new habits caught by the mind, but a realization of our true nature. What is the nature of this quality, what is the nature of this something that can’t be avoided ? One of the great traps of the spiritual scene is to judge who comes and who goes. I have heard of so many teachers threatening their students with hell and damnation if they leave. No one can say who should come or who should or shouldn’t go. For some, going is just right and for others it is a self-betrayal. For some, staying is just right and for others it is a self-betrayal. As long as no one is judging, all reveals itself in time. No one can explain the mystery of love or why anyone loves a particular teacher or not. Yet it is only love that keeps student and teacher together. Love can never be forced, and if it is faked it turns ugly and painful. Of course, when I met Papaji I was sure that everyone would want to meet him and would instantly see him for who he truly is and love him as I did. I was shocked that people would come to his satsang and miss him entirely. They perhaps thought they were there for the teaching and not the teacher, or perhaps they were only ready to hear about the truth rather than realize it in that moment. Who can say? I see two things happening with those that are open to a true meeting. On the one hand there is often a stopping of the mind, an opening of the heart and a realization of emptiness and love. On the other hand there is often even a stronger arising of egoic identification and all that is obscuring your vision of yourself as true love. Both realization and identification must be fully met. In this full meeting you meet yourself and you experience the pain of the false identity. Then you will be tested to see where you true allegiance lies. This is the game of life, the “magic theater” in Hesse’s words, the great initiation as you face yourself and in doing so unveil your soul. This is the great mystery and the great invitation. It is open to everyone. The transmission of Silence is beyond any particular body or form and uses all bodies receptive to it. This transmission of Silence is your own heart calling you back to a full stop in love. It is the flowering of the next stage of human evolution. Not everyone will make the leap, but it is open to all who are willing to hear the call and to follow the deepest longing of their heart. Good therapy will at least heal the ego enough so that you know that a healthy ego is not enough for true happiness. Great therapy will meet you where you are and provide a context for facing everything while uncovering the true desire in every life for freedom and love. The best therapy will demonstrate the living possibility, and offer a way of stepping off into the unknown to realize the truth of who you really are.


“When you can recognize who you are not, then there is a possibility to wake up and discover who you really are.”