This is the final of 5 talks given at a retreat where we look quite deeply at the most essential and foundational practices for a spiritual life.

These are longer than usual talks, and include some Q&A segments where we address some wide-ranging topics in some detail.


Aum namo bhagavata vasudevaya


So, somebody asked me to address something. They’ve asked me to respond to this thought or idea, that amongst the kind of hippie culture they also chant the Mahamantra; and the question, “Will this be effective for them?”

And of course, let me just begin by sharing that—and I’m speaking from experience. I was one of the original hippies, okay? Sex, drugs and rock and roll, on steroids. Pre-Woodstock. And so, what the hippie culture introduced was unabated hedonism. Just do what you want. As me old mate John Lennon used to sing, “Why don’t we do it in the road?” Of course, Nike picked up on that one big time: Just do it! which means, don’t think about it, don’t hesitate, surrender to your desires, surrender to the senses and act on it. And if you do that you are free. And that’s just like the dumbest idea ever. No!

Freedom doesn’t mean, free to make the choices, but freedom means to be free of the consequences. Wow! What an idea that, yeah, you can choose to do whatever you want and act in an unabated, self-centred, ultra-hedonistic way, it doesn’t mean you’re free. You can be utterly enslaved by your mind, your passions, your desires. And then you, acting on all that, now pick up this massive load of karma that you have to bear the consequences of. And, as I mentioned, in this term “latent impressions”, every time we act we’re planting seeds in our heart that will arise as desire in the future for more of the same. So, from the yogi’s perspective, it’s like, “Oh my God, free!? Hello!” This is total enslavement.

And so from people that came from other cultures and haven’t been so much exposed to this type of thing—I mean we’ve been hammering away at it since the 60s, and so it’s kind of like, that’s the way things are, but in a lot of other cultures the idea of restraint and to live a more pure life, and it will result in more peacefulness and happiness, this is a common idea in older cultures. It’s only in this modern times that have produced this absolute craziness. And so a person would think, from older cultures, that if you’ve got this hippie type situation where people are chanting, and yet they’re just living what would be classified as very sinful lives, sinful not from the point of view of like morality as it’s thought of in religion, although elements of that are there, but it has a deeper meaning. They have a word pap and so it means, really contaminates one, and it sets you on a course. So if a person is living this way, and they’re chanting, can it actually really be of benefit to them?

So that’s, of course, opening the doorway for me to speak a little bit about mantra, transcendental sound. Within Vedic and yogic teachings there are two categories of mantra, and they’re not the same.

One category of mantra absolutely has to be pronounced absolutely correctly. A person needs a great degree of personal purity, the time of chanting, the place of chanting, the right intonation, not just the pronunciation, but the intonation of how it’s chanted was all required for the mantra to be effective. And these were Vedic mantras, but these mantras have more to do with the material improvement in one’s life, to live a more refined, peaceful, refined life, where there is adequate amounts of material enjoyment, but it’s on a very fine level. And if one was desirous—And this is broadly categorized as material benefit.

But what the Vedas do, they don’t get into heavy condemnation (well, sometimes they do, on certain things), but what they try to do is uplift people. If you’re on this position, then let’s try to get you up to the next step. And so guidance is given, even around doing things that would be considered by others abominable or bad or wrong. And so—and wherever you are, it’s kind of like, “Okay, how can we move you to the next step?” until you get to this platform where there is this real clarity, and one can begin an actual spiritual undertaking of life.

And so you have massive amount of mantras concerned with that first part, not the actual transcendental part of the journey, but to do with material upliftment; and it had to be chanted in a certain way.

These particular types of mantras that we are engaged in fall into the category of what is called the Sri Nama, which literally means something like sacred names, or holy names, and these category of mantras are purely transcendental, and they may be utilized by some people for some material benefit, but there is no rigid requirement for how they’re pronounced and how they are chanted. So in the Bhagavat Purana there is a verse that begins,

mantratas tantrataś chidraṁ

So anyway I will do—

“There may be, [it says] discrepancies in pronouncing the mantras and observing the regulative principles, and moreover there may be discrepancies in regard to the time and the place, the person and the paraphernalia, but when Sri Nama is chanted everything becomes faultless.”

So I mean you cannot—and unless you’ve actually lived in, not modern India, but the real older Indian culture, which is not really approachable by a lot of people, because people that are deeply immersed in that culture probably wouldn’t have very much to do with foreigners. They kind of like, they live in another world, where their whole life is so deeply regulated and everything. And so the way that they practiced and the way that they were focused, even though it was for material elevation, pious material elevation, is kind of like beyond our comprehension. Until you’ve actually experienced it you can’t sort of get a handle on it.

I mean, when you wake up in the morning, the very first thing that you say; which side of the bed you get out of; what day is this, looking at the calendar, the astrological calendar? can I cut my fingernails and toenails on this day? or should I be doing it on another day? I mean like everything was regulated.

But this use of these transcendental sounds that we are chanting, they are for anyone and everyone. The father of the modern kirtan movement, his name was Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He was here about 535 years ago, and he basically brought about this whole revolution, where you didn’t have to be from an upper class. You can be from the lowest of people, you can be the most degraded of persons, and attain the highest spiritual platform in this very lifetime. And it’s principally to do with the embracing of these sounds. And there’s no hard and fast rules for how they should be chanted and how they should be engaged with—save and except for one important principle, and that important principle is whether you actually receive these sounds from a genuine spiritual source.

And this addresses the principle of what’s called “shadow and substance.” And the example I use is, if you had light streaming through the window, and I had a fan there, because it was hot, and it was on, and you see the blade rotating, and it’s oscillating, and it’s casting a shadow on the floor, that shadow is exactly the same form as the fan, and the movement, everything, is exactly the same. But if I put my hand in front of it, you don’t feel any air blowing, because it is only a shadow. In order to feel the potency, one must go to the actual thing.

So it is, these mantras that we chant are not syllables of mundane sound. They actually contain a great spiritual potency, whether you’re aware of it or not. It’s not—you don’t have to believe. You don’t have to accept anything. All you’ve got to do is come into contact with it, and by that contact, that association, it begins to transform you. Like it or not, it will begin to have the effect.

But in order to receive this empowered spiritual sound and not just a shadow of it, you must receive it from, what was called a sampradaya. So in the very ancient Padma Purana it says,

sampradāya-vihīnā ye mantrās te niṣphalā matāḥ

And it means that, unless one is actually connected and receives their mantra through this sampradaya, this succession, or this lineage, empowered lineage, then the mantra one chants will not bring the desired result. Nisphala—there will be no fruit. You will chant—

And what is that fruit? How is that fruit manifest? The fruit is manifest in this really simple symptom. If one engages in this process, it has this transformative and purifying effect, and I will grow increasingly drawn to a spiritual life and that which is transcendental, and the world and things of this world will begin to fade in their attraction for me. But if I’m engaged in what I think is the process of chanting and things, and that transformation is not happening, I am remaining deeply immersed in this world, then it is an indication that there is something wrong. And it may be because whoever’s sharing a mantra with me may not be sharing an actual mantra, in the truest sense, but simply some syllables of some sound that don’t contain that same potency.

How about that? We okay with that one, or? Like it or not, that’s the way it is. Sorry.

It also describes, you know, we live in this age. It is called Kali Yuga. In Kali Yuga, it is characterized as the age of chaos, quarrel and confusion. Tell me that’s not what your experience is on social media, or YouTube, or interacting and dealing with others? It’s considered actually so shameful that people instantly resort to raised voices and anger in order to deal with, even, difficult issues. It’s like we have this animalistic go-to that’s utterly unproductive and doesn’t help with anything. And it’s kind of like, oh my God, we’re really in bad shape when this is the norm. And it’s considered extraordinary if somebody is dispassionate and can deal with things like this.

So in this particular age, in the Padma Purana also it says,

harer nāma harer nāma
harer nāmaiva kevalam
kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva
nāsty eva gatir anyathā

That in this—and it’s, if you knew anything about Sanskrit and verses, when somebody repeats something even twice, it’s kind of like, woow, this is a really heavy thing. And here we’ve got a three-time, harer nama, harer nama, harer nama. It’s kind of like so amazingly emphatic, that this names of Hari (it’s been described as Sri Nama), kalau nāsty eva, nāsty eva, nāsty eva, there is no other way, there is no other way, there is no other path, in this age, than to engage in this process.

So, there are amazing verses where it speaks about this sound that we’re hearing is considered the sound incarnation of Krishna, or the highest Transcendent reality. And when I say the sound incarnation, most people, it’s kind of like, “Okay, what exactly does that mean?” And they speak about how this transcendental sound actually is non-different than the Supreme Soul. It’s non-different.

For us, we may not see that, we may not get it. But it’s kind of like, everybody—you guys been having fun here the last three nights or not? And it’s kind of like, what’s wrong with these people? They just keep saying the same things over and over, and everybody’s having heart eruptions. And it’s just like, ah, it’s so nice, and it’s having this amazing effect on people, whether they recognize it or not.

And it’s sort of like, well, if we were—I mean we’re at the Mount, why don’t we all just chant surfboard, or sand, sand, sand, sand, sand, sand, sand. Or, want something sweet? Okay, let’s go with mango. Mango, mango, mang—it’s kind of like, nobody’s going to get off on that. It’s not going to bring tears to your eyes. It’s not going to melt your heart. It’s not going to arouse in you a desire for something different, something more wonderfully spiritual, something—it just doesn’t do it. And that’s because it is only material sound vibration.

And so it describes that the actual sound Sri Nama contains an entire spiritual world, where Bhagavan, even, the personality of Godhead is manifest, and a whole realm of spiritual experience and ecstatic spiritual love and relationship. And you don’t get it in the beginning, but in this process of chanting, if one becomes deeply engaged with it, then there will come a point where, when you chant with focus and a heart of deep surrender, you will actually experience the presence of this transcendent and divine personality, the Lord of your heart. And it will cause overwhelming response, that will manifest in your heart and your mind and even your body, to have this intimate connection. As one becomes increasingly purified (this is only like the beginning), it becomes more and more profound, and one can be transported into an amazing transcendental world of spiritual experience and love.

So what we—we just deal with the simple stuff. We’re simple folk. It’s just, like chant and be happy. “Oh, okay!” But there is more to the journey. And whether you consciously seek this or not, if you are faithful in your application of this process, this meditative process, these transformations will take place and will appear within the heart.

In connection with this, the question that was asked from me, “Okay, even if a bunch of wild festival going, hippie kind of types are going crazy and chanting, will they also have any benefit or effect?” and it solely depends upon where they first heard these sounds from. If one has received these sounds through any form of authentic and empowered lineage, then that potency will be there. If not, it will only be external sound.

So I see people have this habit, they just make up mantras, “Let’s chant this, let’s chant that.” They kind of equate everything together. And that’s actually considered, within the Vedic teachings, to be disadvantageous, to draw parallels with everything, doesn’t matter what you do, it’s all one. No, no—well, yes, maybe on some level, but in reality, no, it’s not, and different things produce different results.

So if—there’s this extraordinary—during the time of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, he, in his young—He started His own school of grammar and logic when he was 14 years old, and great scholars were flocking to him, to learn from him. He manifest this extraordinary intelligence. And it wasn’t until a little bit later that he did this—there was this big shift in how he was dealing with everybody, and he began to speak about this process of chanting. And while he would publicly engage in the chanting process, there were times at night when he would withdraw into the compound of one of his dear associates, Srivas, and there they would have a closed kirtan, and only the top-most transcendentalists were allowed entry. But that sound was drifting everywhere.

On the other side of the river, the Ganga, in the town of Navadvip there were a couple of really bad news characters. I mean you think some gang members are bad, you ain’t seen nothing. These guys were like, terrorized the whole part of the city. If you entered there you had to pay tax just to walk on the road. They freely raped women in public, and they were murderers. They were just like killers, and they would—they were crazy people, and they were constantly in a drunken stupor. They just raped and pillaged and murdered and—

And at night time there was this time when they all kind of like decided to do their drunken parties down on the banks of the Ganga. And on the other side of the river, some distance away, was going these closed kirtans of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. And they would be making fun of it, “Yaaah Krishna, Yeaah,” drinking and just being absolute idiots and aresholes, but they nonetheless heard and participated, even though they were doing it derisively and in a joking manner. And it had an influence on them.

One of the intimate associates of Caitanya Mahaprabhu was a personality, his name was Nityananda Prabhu, and he went out with a very close friend of his, who had been born in the family of Muslims, and had taken up this deep practice of this chanting of Sri Nama. And they encountered this drunken mob, and Nityananda Prabhu, he said, “Hey, we need to save these guys. Let’s go talk to them.” And so they went to try and talk to them, and they were violently berated and attacked, and they had to pretty much run for their lives.

And so the next day, he decided, he’s going back again, and he went back to talk to them again, and they—one of them became—the violent reaction, and he took a clay wine bottle, and he threw it, and smashed it on the head of Nityananda. And when that happened his brother instantly felt like, “Oh, my God, there’s something, this was really bad. We shouldn’t do this.” He had this twinge of conscience. But actually the reason he felt like that was because they had inadvertently been exposed to these transcendental sounds, and it was already taking effect.

Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to the scene, and he was prepared to violently engage with these guys, because he was—not for himself but he was so angry that they would do this to somebody that was such a pure soul as Nityananda Prabhu. And seeing the great anger of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who was going to get, he was going to use a mystic weapon to actually annihilate this guy. And Nityananda, who was on the ground, held the feet of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and begged him, he said, “Please don’t do this. You have come here to try and save the most fallen, and if you can save them, then you will be known as the saviour of the most fallen,” and there was a moment of hesitation. And the guy that had committed this awful thing suddenly fell—he just had this vision, he just suddenly had this clarity, and it’s like, “Oh my God, what have I been doing with my life? And what is this?” and falling at the feet of Nityananda, he begged, “Please forgive me for this act.”

And these guys were like instantly transformed. It’s not common. It’s highly unusual, but they were instantly transformed, and were invited to participate at night in this great chanting, and they manifest wonderful ecstatic symptoms and had this amazing realizations and transcendental experience. And in tremendous humility they spent the rest of their life waiting by the Ganges for people that would come and bathe, and try to assist them in any way that they could. And with every person they saw, they begged them to be forgiven for their previous grievous and very sinful conduct.

This event played out as a really important part of what Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the father of kirtan, was sharing, that we’ve gone beyond this time of the great mystics, the great powerful yogis, the extraordinary personalities. He said he has come to share the greatest gift with everyone, and you need no qualification whatsoever.

And because of this, in answer to this question (my God, this guy gives such long answers!), in answer to the question, yeah, even if a bunch of wild hedonistic hippies, if they have received, somehow they have heard this Sri Nama, this type of spiritual sound, mantra, from an authentic source—and an authentic source doesn’t mean—it’s like anybody, any one of you that has come here and heard this chanting, and who goes, and with a neighbour, a friend, anybody else, and shares what you have, they are receiving this sound from an authentic source. There is that connection.

Don’t think it’s something, kind of like—they have all this weird crap, where they talk about, you know, you’ve got to go to the guru and get a secret mantra, and he’s going to give you the shaktipat, boojooojoo [mimes an explosion] That’s crap. That’s not true. This is all just made up to mislead innocent and gullible people who buy into it. It’s far more wonderfully transcendental than that.

Any of you can share the greatest gift that anybody can receive, just by teaching someone meditation, playing some chanting, and somebody overhears it—because once a person hears this, even once, I’m sorry, it’s all over! It’s only a question of time, and that might be lifetimes, but you are on your way. And whatever gain you make in one lifetime is never lost. In a succeeding lifetime, even if you didn’t do so well, in a succeeding lifetime you’ll be granted the opportunity to continue where you left off. And when you are again exposed there will be this familiarity. There’s something that just sits well. There’s something that you’re sort of connecting with, and it’s because of this carryover.

So, another one of our great spiritual teachers, he was a direct disciple of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. His name was Rupa Goswami, extraordinary personality, and he wrote a brief poem that has profound spiritual meaning and will become increasingly, ecstatically wonderful the more we progress, and this lotus of the holy name begins to blossom within the heart. And he wrote,

“I do not know how much nectar these two syllables Krish-na have produced. When this holy name of Krishna is chanted it appears to dance within the mouth, and then we desire many, many mouths. And when that name enters the holes of the ears we desire millions of ears. And when this Holy Name dances in the courtyard of the heart it conquers the activities of the material mind, and therefore all of the senses become inert.”

Inert here doesn’t mean just like you’re unresponsive. It means that they are not engaged at all in any material activity. When you chant, even if there are times for five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes, where you’re just absorbed in chanting, and you’re not thinking about anything, and you’re not—you don’t remember anything, and you don’t—you’re not thinking of your troubles and all the heartaches and the bummer stuff, and even the good. There’s just nothing. You’re just there immersed in the sound, this is actually the beginning of the experience of what is called samadhi, to be actually immersed in actual transcendence.

So one more thing I’ll read. It’s from the Adi Purana, and it is a statement where Lord Sri Krishna was speaking with Arjuna. The Bhagavad-gita is a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna. This is another one entirely. And He states,

“O Arjuna listen attentively. When the living entity chants My name, whether out of devotion or indifference, I never forget this act. It remains always close to My heart. There is no vow that can be compared to chanting of these Holy Names. There is no knowledge superior to it. There is no meditation which comes anywhere near it, and it gives the highest result. No penance is equal to it, and nothing is as potent or as powerful as this Holy Name. Chanting is the greatest act of piety, and it is the supreme refuge. [Oh my God, that’s an amazing idea, that I can actually find shelter by resting my mind and heart] It is the greatest refuge. Even the words of the Vedas do not possess sufficient power to describe its magnitude. Chanting is the highest path to liberation, to peace, and to eternal life. It is the pinnacle of devotion, the heart’s joyous proclivity and attraction, and it is the best form of remembrance of the Supreme Soul. This Holy Name has appeared solely for the benefit of the living entities, as their Lord and Master, their Supreme worshipable object, and their spiritual guide and mentor.”

How about that?

So I was going to deal with some other things. I’d maybe, just really, really quickly—We’ve talked about two principles over the weekend, that are foundational to a spiritual life. But there is something, and I mentioned last night, and I was asked to speak about it a little, that we can actually seek to cultivate spiritual virtue. And in doing that, it’s incredibly beneficial. It will accelerate your spiritual growth. It will make it so that your experience of spiritual sound meditation, it will deepen that experience. And spiritual virtue is something that you need to kind of figure out.

I feel it is hugely problematic that for whatever reason—I mean some of it is because people, in the name of religion, in some instances, have acted horribly. People that are critical of religion in general, because of bad examples, themselves often don’t know any good examples. And so there’s no balance in that perspective, because there’s some extraordinary example of amazing personalities who have dedicated their life to—in such a sacred and holy way, and have uplifted and touched the lives of so many people. And the big problem is when you’ve got all these crappy examples, and then you’ve got this caricature of what is a religious person, that is shaped only by kind of like very limited perspective, then the tendency is, as they say, to throw the baby out with the bath water.

I don’t know if anybody—how many of you have had little children, and you’ve got the little plastic tub, and you’re giving them their first baths, and you’re washing them? And that’s always a kind of a bit of a thrilling experience for new parents. But then you finished washing them, and you’ve got to get rid of the water, and the baby and everything, [mimes throwing it all to the side including baby] but that’s the meaning, throw the baby out with the bath water.

And so what has often happened is there has been an abandonment of principles and virtues that make you a much better person, and make your life more wonderful, and make you a more wonderful person to be around, just in relation to your own family members and people that you are interconnecting with. And if you just wholesale dump all of those virtues out the window because they were connected with some, in your mind, some dude that was just an absolute, beyond an arsehole, a demon, somebody that hurts so many people, that’s kind of like—that’s not intelligent. In fact it’s really, really dumb.

So the need to actually cultivate a life of dispassion and restraint and virtue will bring you happiness. Your life will become, in spite of limitless difficulty and struggles, you can become actually happy in this life, but you have to choose a course that really is powerful and delivers. So I use the example of Alcoholics Anonymous, the 12-step program, because it was developed based on very fine religious or spirit—they are actually spiritual principles. And they’ve found that when people embrace this 12-step program there is nothing, so far, as powerful in its ability to affect lots of people and to transform their lives.

And this 12-step program, it begins with a person admitting that they are powerless over their addiction. And of course, this is such a massive step for anybody struggling with any form of addiction. Everybody lives in denial. “There’s no problem. There’s no issue. I can manage it. It’s all right.” And it’s just total crap. They’re just causing chaos. And the things I’ve dealt with and experienced and seen, people can just be—they can be living on the street already. Their families are just tearing their hair out, and just, their hearts are broken watching somebody dear to them just prostituting themselves for another hit and just living a life of criminality and debauchery and degradedness, just for another hit. And it’s kind of like, oh my—it’s so heartbreaking.

And the first step is to accept the reality of our condition. This really applies to us also, this acceptance of the reality.

Their second step is believing that a Higher Power, in whatever form that may appear to us, a Higher Power can help me. And of course, the associated virtue with that second step is the virtue of hope.

And it’s kind of like, “Well, what are you gonna do? Are you gonna believe in the man that flies in the sky?” And it’s just like, oh my God, when anybody says that, I just go, how dumb are you? It’s just like, give me a break. Nobody’s talking about a man flying in the sky. We’re talking about a great transcendent and higher reality, however that may appear to you, and to feel hopeless, in the sense that I accept I don’t have any control over my life and what’s going on, I have no control of my addiction, and I need the intercession of some Higher Power beyond me to help get me out of this state.

And then the third step is deciding to turn control over the control of your life over to this Higher Power. They really go through this in a deep way. They have like psychological counselling, and they talk about the effect I’ve had on families, and all kinds of stuff, and they really come to this point where they embrace this type of principle: “I realize I don’t have the power. I need to be directed, divinely directed, and I need to be empowered. I need help. I can’t do this on my own.”

And then their fourth step is, taking personal inventory, which means really examining your life and your decisions and your actions and how you’ve lived, and owning it, owning it with a view to seeking “Where to from here?” And the work I do in prisons working with guys, this is something I try to have them focus on. Don’t get lost in all that crap that was the early part of your life and it all—the tragedy and the heartbreak and the betrayals and the violence and everything. Don’t get lost in that. That’s there. We accept that has happened. That’s where I’ve been. And the criminal activity is not who I am. This is stuff that I have done, but who am I? That’s the big question. And the question is, “So where to from here? What is the way forward in life?”

And so this principle, it’s a profoundly spiritual principle. And it requires tremendous courage to be able to step up and go, “Okay, I take inventory of my life. I accept these things. I hear some good advice and spiritual guidance, and now I need the courage to actually embrace that and do it.”

And it of course, implies this sense of faith, which is not just a blind acceptance but—You know, in these circles, you’ve got people that were formally savagely addicted and just out of control, whose life has been turned around, and often they will come into these circles of people, and they will become mentors of others. And so a person looks at somebody that has walked this path for ten years, twenty years. Russell Brand, just a little while back, celebrated 20 years of sobriety, overcoming massive heroin addiction, alcohol addiction, cocaine usage by the bucket, and a massive sexual addiction. He says his life was absolutely transformed because of this process. And so when you get to associate with someone that you see, yeah, their life has actually changed, then I develop a faith that is based upon trust, if that person could do this then maybe I can do it too. But one needs then, they need that sense of faith, or deep trust, to summon the courage, which we ask for also, to take the next step.

Then their fifth step is, admitting to this Higher Power, to oneself, and another person, the wrongs that I have done. And it’s very specific. And psychologically and spiritually there is sort of like a reason for this. But what the virtue that is being cultivated is actual honesty.

Then the sixth step is, being ready to have that Higher Power correct any shortcomings in one’s character. And this is just like whoa! I’ve mentioned before that, broadly, all spiritual paths will fall into one of two categories; the ascending process where I try to attain a goal because of my excellence:

This is just like a gold medal Olympian. Out of the hundreds of thousands of people that may be active in a sport, a limited number are selected and considered to be Olympic level. And amongst perhaps 50 or 100 of those, only one of them will be awarded the gold medal. And it comes from this dedication—Of course, there’s going to be a physiology, meaning certain body types are better at certain sports and give people certain advantages (we’re not all equal in that sense, far from it) but it’s about my exertion, my focus, my determination to come to that.

And many people equate this as being how one needs to practice spiritually. As I mentioned before, in the case of those two absolute degraded individuals that I spoke of, their names were Jagai and Madhai, they attained spiritual perfection, not because they did anything wonderful, it was through this process of surrender and accepting a lot of the things that we’re speaking about here.

The descending path is what’s being described here, where I embrace the reality that I’m filled with shortcomings, and I’m not powerful and strong. I may be quite weak. And that’s okay. That doesn’t matter. But if I take shelter in such a wonderful spiritual process, then I can be gifted with spiritual realization and experience. So, this being ready to have that Higher Power correct shortcomings in one’s character is described, the virtue that it signals is patience, which is really important.

The two things you really need in a spiritual journey, you need patience: we’re talking about undoing lifetimes of screwing up, lifetimes of conditioning. And so okay, I know you want it, but we need to go through the process. We need this purification, so let’s do it step by step. Patience and determination. Determination is, I’m not giving up, even if I fall over, even if I space out and head off in a bad direction again, and then wake up one morning and go, “Oh my God, what’s happened? I need to get back to the meditation and stuff.” It’s fine. It’s okay. But that commitment to rekindle, to pick up and again strive. This is really determination, that I’m doing this no matter what. No matter what, I’m doing this, because it’s in my interest.

So then their eighth step is to, “Make a list of wrongs done to others, and being willing to make amends for those wrongs,” so this willingness to do what it takes. And of course, this needs to be very balanced.

I was talking with someone yesterday about forgiveness. When we deal with the murderers and rapists and child molesters and stuff in the prisons, it’s kind of like, when they start unpacking, it’s kind of like whoa! You can’t believe it. When I deal, and particularly with victims, like in these shelters where women have been subjected to domestic violence and rape, and as soon as you mention the word forgiveness, everybody has this massive allergic reaction to it. And some people can’t—just hearing the word will make it so people—I’ve had people step up and just walk out of the room, because it’s just bringing back all of this trauma.

And when they come back again, probably in the next class, I tell them that we need to understand what forgiveness means. It’s not condoning. It’s not letting somebody off. You are living in this shadow of terror, and while you are not letting go, this person is continuing to control and affect and influence your life, and forgiveness is the process where you step out from that shadow, that you are actually set free. It’s a really profound principle, and it’s something we could talk about actually for a few hours, but we won’t. But the necessity to take responsibility and to try and address, which will often mean myself learning to forgive those that have damaged and hurt me, and me seeking forgiveness from those that I have hurt and damaged. Both of these things are necessary to come to the position of being free from these things.

Then the ninth principle is contacting those who have been hurt, unless doing so would harm the person. So that’s a really important point, how one does it. I mean if I’m just selfishly concerned about unloading my burden, then I might just be pouncing on somebody that’s just freaked out by me, and I’m demanding time to, you know—And it’s kind of like, no, you can’t do that. That’s a selfish move. That’s not a selfless move. You have to learn how to cultivate the environment and make it so you can come to that point.

But this is described, the virtue in the AA programme is broadly described as brotherly love where there is actually—You know, there’s a Greek word agape, this sense of deep love that we can have for each other that is not sexual, and it’s not driven by me seeking to get something, but rather it is a heart of giving.

Their tenth item is, to continue to make personal inventory and admitting when one is wrong, and this is—the virtue is called integrity. My God, we have such a hard time admitting we’re wrong.

The 11th principle, seeking enlightenment and connection with the Higher Power via prayer and meditation, and they categorize the virtue there as self-discipline, because it’s needed.

The 12th item is, carrying this message to others who are in need, and the virtue there is to offer service to others.

So one—of course, these principles don’t just apply within the environment of the problem of addiction. They apply broadly in our life in so many ways. And so I’m hoping that what we’re getting across (and forgive me if we’re not), what we’re getting across is, not only do we need to do the meditation, and to try and live a life that’s more guided by spiritual principle, but we need to cultivate this type of virtue, which is—it practically directs how we are going to in interact with all life, and to this world upon which we live and need for the sustenance of our body and mind. So this cultivation of spiritual virtue is really important, and unfortunately it’s not much of a focus in the world today.

And that’s it folks. Okay? More than okay? It’s way more than okay for me. It’s just like—this is stuff is amazing. I feel so fortunate in my life, in so many ways. We are greatly blessed.

So with that I would like, really like, to thank everyone that put on the retreat. Did a wonderful job, guys. There were so many moving parts, and so many people doing so many things, and so many people stepped up to volunteer and do stuff behind the scenes. And I think we all had a wonderful experience. And, at least in my limited perspective, it seems over the years everybody’s coming to the party, and it’s creating a better and better experience. Yeah? So, thank you very much.

Audience: words of appreciation inaudible

That’s okay. No, it’s—I as I always say I am so deeply indebted to you guys for asking me to do this kind of stuff, because it allows me to attempt to repay the great debt I have to my teachers. So I, my personal feeling is that you are rendering a tremendous service to me and helping me by doing this. Thank you.