Donna Quesada: Robert, I want to ask…you know the name of our site is Awaken.com…so, we have a little tradition here.
And I would like to ask you…in light of our tradition…what is awakening to you? Is this awakening…these little practical moments, or is there a big awakening? Could you speak to that?
Robert Thurman PhD: These little tiny moments are all a part of the big awakening. And the big awakening has already happened, actually. Anyone who has achieved the human life form…it’s a very difficult evolutionary thing. To be a human being. We are such complicated beings. And we are so capable of being fantastic saints and Buddhas and things. We can be horrible, demonic mass murderers, too. And our virtue as a human being is that we are very hardwired. And so, our education and how we cultivate ourselves is all important. And this whole meditation thing that goes on…that’s not a special thing about Buddhism. Everyone meditates, actually…Americans meditate watching commercials and watching news.
DONNA: That’s interesting.
BOB: They meditate in fear and paranoia. Because the news tells them all horrible things are happening. And they watch commercials and they meditate about dissatisfaction. And greed for more things. Or material things because that’s what those are about. And those are meditations. In other words, they shape their minds and their reactions. We all are meditating all the time. But the real thing…and we have it in our own culture and Buddhism re-enforces it…is education. Bringing out from within our soft hearts…kindness. We are mammals. We are all infants for years. Even adolescence is helpless, although they will never admit it. It’s my life, I want to live it…but actually, they still need a lot of help. And human beings are like that. Shaping ourselves toward the effective, toward the kindness and not toward the angry and the unkindness and the misery…and the afflicting misery is really critical. More education is so critical. And that is why governments or police states…they are always out there trying to educate. Control education…because they know that is how people will internalize systems of self-control. Or self-obedience to the authorities. So, every human being is already totally awakened compared to your crocodile. And human beings have all the capacity to become kind. And even the bad guys are kind to somebody. They are friendly to their lover…they are friendly to a child…to their kin and everything. All they have to do is learn to expand that aspect of themselves…and to diminish the hostile, aggressive parts of themselves.
More and more things in modern technology of civilization are forcing them to be aware of other people and Facebook is like a global mind. And there are pragmatic things about the global mind that pop up in Facebook, but the main thing, deep inside it is you really see that Chinese people are human. Chinese people see that you are really white, but I don’t think that we are really white. I don’t like that category. We’re all yellow, black and blotchy pink. Only clowns with white paste on their face are really white. So, my point is that awakening…there are endless degrees of awakening. A Buddhist society like ancient Tibet was fully Buddhist…mainstream Buddhist. Doesn’t mean everybody is perfect. But in such a society it is acknowledged that humans…the most important thing that they do in life, is learn…is transform themselves and flourish…evolve. Their productivity for the collective is also important, but not the most important…because there is abundance on earth if it is not abused. The earth provides enough for everybody and if it’s not abused…and if people don’t hoard it and if people don’t overdo…there is enough. The plants love us. They bring us oxygen, everything. A human being only needs to have bled out of their deep heart the basic love that has made them human. And the ethics and the sensitivity to others. And the ability to imagine that they are the other. To empathize.
DONNA: Does it require meditation?
BOB: It could at some stage, yes. Like when you learn a language…a different language, you first learn some words. You write them down and memorize them a bit. But then you have to repeat and repeat and repeat. And that is meditation. That is a kind of meditation. Meditation doesn’t mean just sit there with nothing in your mind. There is a kind of meditation like that, it’s kind of like Prozac—it’s a tranquilizer. It will not really transform you, it just gives you a rest. To transform yourself, your meditation has to aim at bringing out the higher qualities in your being. And any human being who does that will find that the essence of a human being is openness. Compared to crocodiles…crocodiles…Mr. Crocodile is not sitting there thinking about what the other crocodile is thinking…and let’s work together and have a football team. They are not thinking that. They just want to grab something and eat it. Because they are wired to have a limited body and brain to do that.
A human being can be completely multi-optional…what should I do today? And then someone comes in with a vibe and they feel that person’s vibe. They can’t help themselves. We are incredibly sensitive beings. And all we really have to do is trust the universe. We are taught by authorities that the universe is really dangerous. Something awful is going to happen. And of course, all those who do that pretend that they know some safety place. Like, the materialist says that safety places are dying. Once you are dead, you are safe! Your Christian says “Jesus will save you.” A Buddhist says “Buddha will save you.” But actually, what Jesus said and Buddha said is, “if you open your heart, you will be saved.” That’s the key thing for the human being. And so, that is where we are in history. And I’m incredibly optimistic. Everybody is turbulent. You say, everyone in freaking out…it’s all up in the air. That is a sign of hope. Why?
DONNA: Because it’s like a kick in the butt.
BOB: Partly. But partly, it’s because the structures of domination…the political science definition of a government is that entity which has the legitimate use of violence within its territory. So, they are behaving violently. That’s not the way to go right now; that’s not democracy. The Government is the servant of the people, not the dominator of the people. That’s the dream of democracy. And so, the top level is so disconnected from the needs of the people and they are so into serving the needs of the other oligarchs…they even sign things that they know aren’t going to serve the needs of the people. It’s every man for himself. ‘Cause the oligarchs want that so they can dominate without the government to protect the people. And that is what is happening. Because they are so massively incompetent.
That’s a sign that they have really outlived their usefulness…that type of government. And the people’s good will and the loving mothers of the world…and the gentle people of the world…finally, are going to have their voices heard. And it’s going to happen. It really is. And you know, here I really want to say one thing because I’m talking through you to Awaken…to a liberal bunch of people. And I want to say this: Let’s not blame Hillary. We have to remember, she did win the election. She was cheated out of it by all kinds of scams. Not just the Russians either. All kinds of voter exclusion. Ideologies…oligarchic scams. And what she is doing in her book is…she’s decided she needs to speak out of the present danger of a disconnected government that is actually trying to destroy itself. It’s trying to destroy its ability to serve the people. Did you ever notice that?
BOB: If you sign a pledge that says “I’ll never raise a tax to pay for health care…to pay for cleaning up the environment…to pay for any service that people actually need…I’ll never do that, even if it goes bankrupt…I’ll block it.” Then, that means you haven’t taken your oath of office. It means, you are impeaching yourself before you even sit in the chair. Nobody has kind of put that together. They won the election by money, advertising, brain washing and distorted vote counting. But once they are there, they say “we are here to destroy it.”
DONNA: Contrary to the whole post.
Bob: Contrary to their oath of office, which says they are there to serve. So therefore, may they not serve. May they go back home and play golf. And people who want to serve…may they go and do the things that everybody knows needs to be done. Every dunce knows, you don’t dump poison water all over the underground. You don’t build in a flood plain. It’s really simple. It’s not rocket science. I applaud that Hillary won. And she is speaking for the heart of the people. And we should respect that. Al Gore was also cheated, but he didn’t say anything. He said it’s all corrupt and he did great things making his movie. But on the other hand, while he did that and we thought, that is all great about the environment…educated us, that’s great. He turned over the thing to people who did the opposite…and continued the process of destroying everything…pumping out the oil and the gas.
So actually, he left the criminals with the levers of power. And she’s saying, “no, I’m going to speak up and I don’t care if they say I’m a sore loser, or whatever they want to say.” Actually, this is a danger and we can’t do business as usual here. Of course, she is a total girl scout and she thinks that you are supposed to believe in the system. But when the system is corrupt, you have to speak out. And I honor her for doing so. And liberals have this thing…she’s such a bad campaigner. She should have talked back to Trump in a different way. But she still won! So that means, we don’t get depressed. You understand that people think that this insane bunch of loonies up there…who are like bad golfers even…are what the American people wanted. And that’s why people are depressed. Actually, the American people didn’t want that. And we should remember that. That doesn’t mean we should violently overthrow. It means that we should be sorry for the people that can’t function. And we should applaud someone who calls out the clear and present danger in a form of dialogue. And that is what the Dalai Lama tries to do for the whole planet. He says this is a danger. No more war. Dialogue instead of violence. He even shocked me the other day when I interviewed him some time ago, for Rolling Stone. He said, “ISIS…talk to them.” I said, “what do you mean, ‘talk to them?’” “They will shoot me! …come on!” He said, “well after you’ve taken away their swords, talk to them.” Everyone has to be talked to. Some need therapy. But we have to Dialogue. We make a rule to not behave like them. We won’t cut their heads off. I mean, we have to defend ourselves. But we have to talk to them, no matter how crazy we think they are. Maybe they need to be restrained a little bit. But then we talk. Don’t act like we bomb them, so that solves it because that is not solving it.
DONNA: It’s true that the consensus is that there just is no dealing with these people. So, it would have been shocking to hear that.
BOB: That’s right, I was shocked. I don’t want to get decapitated!
DONNA: Do you have anything else you would like to share with out Awaken listeners?
BOB: You know, we hear about lucid dreaming. So, you can learn to be conscious in your dreams. Which doesn’t mean that you still don’t learn from your subconscious in your dreams, like shrinks want you to do. But, it means you can decide to focus on this or that. And you can be aware that you are dreaming and still be in the dream.
BOB: And it’s called lucid dreaming. Learning something is the first step before mindfulness. And then mindfulness or conscientiousness…same thing for a westerner…is a very good step. And so, that is really a very good thing to do…actually, I forgot the point I was going to make.
DONNA: That’s interesting, though. Lucid dreaming is a bit like bringing mindfulness into your dreams. And that’s a fascinating way to put it.
BOB: What I’m saying is, what we should try to do is to be lucid waking! And enlightenment is heading us in that direction. And so, for example, what that means is that you observe the way your reactive mechanisms work just watching your mind work a little bit and analyzing the voice inside you that says, “Oh, I hate that”… or, “I can’t stand the other and he’s not worthy of living,” or, whatever it may be. I must have that. I don’t care how compromised my ethics are…I’ll go get that. Obsession…these things…you can watch how they function and you can learn to question your voice that says to you “I must have this” or “you must hate that.” But, you think it’s your own voice or your only voice. Therefore, you are helpless when it pushes you to do something. You have to act on your impulse, so mindfulness helps give you some space from the impulse.
And I want to use the example of the great Eckhart Tolle, who is not a Buddhist, but he had his own story…how he saved himself. He wasn’t necessarily already doing The Power of Now…if you go back to one of his books, where he tells the story. He was in a depression cycle, going down the drain where he was about to commit suicide. And he was listening to himself…a voice that he identified with as his only voice, saying, “You’re worthless…the world is worthless…it’s all worthless…the only thing to do is to get out of this and destroy yourself.” This voice was talking him down the drain. And the way he was saved is another voice in him from somewhere and maybe at first, he didn’t know what it was. He said to the voice that was trashing him…said “Why should I listen to you and follow your advice?…Maybe you’re not giving me the right picture here.” And so, a different voice came and was critically engaged with the voice that was driving him impulsively to self-destruction and said “I don’t have to listen to you… You don’t control me.”
In other words, he developed more resilience of identification. And that was an exercise of mindfulness. You don’t have to call it Buddhist. That’s what mindfulness does. You develop…you know the word mindfulness is the same thing in Sanskrit as remembering? So, what you are doing is just remembering that you are awake and you are here and you are thinking something. But the memory mind is a second mind that can look critically at…the impulsive mind. And so, everyone can do that and it doesn’t make you a Buddhist. You don’t have to be a Buddhist, you can just be more awake through the processes within you that are taking place and gain more control and leverage over them so you don’t get pushed into things that you will later regret doing. Poor Harvey. Harvey didn’t want to become disgraced and have all the beautiful actresses in Hollywood end up hating him. But he couldn’t control…some impulse said, “I should go grab somebody.” So, he needs some kind of therapy. Actually, psycho-therapy is mindfulness. Your second voice, at first, is your therapist. They don’t even speak. They just observe. They won’t be an inappropriate voice but you have to know what all your inner voices are. And at some point, voice two, three, or four is your critical voice. So, it’s kind of a laborious way of going into mindfulness.
DONNA: What happened to Eckhart Tolle, but they are taking the place of the second voice….
BOB: Something like that. And Tolle luckily, because we wouldn’t have had all his marvelous teachings. He luckily…that came out of his heart. It probably came from his mom. Maybe the voice that was after him was his dad, or, some ancestor telling him that he was worthless. And his mom’s voice…maybe he didn’t recognize it at first…maybe he was afraid of identifying with a female voice. Whatever. Didn’t know what side of the bread is buttered. Like some men don’t. So, he didn’t hear it before, but then he suddenly heard it in that extreme situation. So, everyone has these multiple voices and that doesn’t mean that they are not self-aware of how they have been conditioned. Because what the human being is, is a learning machine. And we are all here to learn and flourish. And because we can definitely count on future lives. Many of them. Or, maybe we want to think it’s just one that God gives us. Whatever we think. Everybody knows intuitively that everything in nature is continuity. News flash to the Awaken audience. Nothing is nothing. It’s not a place that you can go. So, no one gets to go there. Everyone always goes somewhere else. And if they would know that…if they would listen to their intuition that, that’s the case…because everything that’s ever happened in nature…the second law of thermo-dynamics is about energy. Then they become concerned about where they are going to go. And that makes your mind now open to be able to deal with whatever comes up and more aware of it. It gives you…that’s your whole purpose in life.
DONNA: Beautifully put.
BOB: My last thought for the Awaken audience… Be lucid waking!
DONNA: I love it.
BOB: And that will help you be lucid dreaming. Be lucid activists. Be loving and happy. And eventually we can lucidly die and be reborn. With a nice mom, in a good neighborhood with a good dad in a good family. And then continue to learn and to love and help other human beings.
DONNA: Sounds good to me. I thank you for your time. We at Awaken thank you for your time.