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New Interview w/ Stephen Synder! (hard jhana, Pa Auk Sayadaw, Zen)

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New interview with Stephen Snyder - co-author (with Tina Rasmussen) of 'Practicing the Jhanas', and another graduate of Pa Auk Sayadaw's hard jhana system.

Would love to know what you think :-) 

https://www.guruviking.com/ep24-stephen-snyder-a-stroke-of-realisation-guru-viking-interviews/


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In this episode I talk with Stephen Snyder, meditation teacher and author who is perhaps best known as being the first non-monastic Western man to master the virtuoso-level shamata meditation system of Pa Auk Sayadaw.

In this interview we learn about Stephen’s early fascination with meditation, teaching himself Zen practice from books for years before attending his first traditional sesshin. We also explore Stephen’s vivid past life memories in detail.

At 28 Stephen had a radical spiritual awakening, went on to develop unique processes to integrate that awakening and improve his behaviours.

We also discuss how Stephen’s professional role as a lawyer to various Zen masters revealed to him the importance of combining psychological work with spiritual practice.

In 2018 Stephen had a serious stroke, during which he was thrust into a profound experience of what he calls the Vajra Body. In the last part of the interview Stephen recounts this incident and details the realisations that followed.

Topics include:

01:00 – Childhood meditation experiences
03:30 – Learning Zen practice from books
05:04 – Encountering Zen monks at 3 years old
06:55 – Stephen’s past life experiences
12:56 – Siddhis and special powers that can arise from concentration practice
16:26 – Choosing the right practice
19:10 – Stephen’s first Zen retreat
21:18 – Learning to sit through pain
23:14 – Radical awakening at age 28
28:00 – Stephen’s strategies for working with the personality material after awakening
39:30 – Recognising awakened people
41:09 – Integrating spiritual experience in work and daily life
46:33 – Working with recurring interpersonal conflict
48:00 – When to stay in conflict and when to walk away
51:44 – Lessons learned lawyering for Zen Masters
56:20 – Meeting Tina Rasmussen and a mutual recognition
1:00:53- Mastering the jhanas with Pa Auk Sayadaw
1:08:03 – Meditations to train disgust towards the body
1:13:04 – Current book projects
1:14:58 – Stephen’s stroke in 2018 and experience of the Vajra Body
1:23:54 – Cultivating the Vajra Body
1:28:40 – How to contact Stephen

RE: New Interview w/ Stephen Synder! (hard jhana, Pa Auk Sayadaw, Zen)
Answer
2/9/20 8:06 AM as a reply to Steve James.
>39:30 – Recognising awakened people

Thumbs up for that!

RE: New Interview w/ Stephen Synder! (hard jhana, Pa Auk Sayadaw, Zen)
Answer
2/10/20 3:43 AM as a reply to Kim Katami.
Its ironic "past lives" is a mistranslation of the Pali "pubbe nivasa". Yet Theravada folks claim to see past lives even though the Buddha never did. This fertile discursive imagination is all due to a mistranslation. 

Nicky:
Its ironic "past lives" is a mistranslation of the Pali "pubbe nivasa". Yet Theravada folks claim to see past lives even though the Buddha never did. This fertile discursive imagination is all due to a mistranslation. 

How does the mistranslation change the doctrine of past lives? I believe some texts do account Shakyamuni's past lives. Widely discussed in vajrayana.

RE: New Interview w/ Stephen Synder! (hard jhana, Pa Auk Sayadaw, Zen)
Answer
2/10/20 3:56 AM as a reply to Kim Katami.
The Buddha did not teach Vajrayana, which is hundreds of years after the Buddha. 

What is translated as "past lives" is actually the complete opposite of past lives. When the Buddha recollected the past, he said it was recollecting when in the past the mind ignorantly clung to one or more aggregate as "self"; therefore the Noble Disciple does not regard anything from the past as "I", "me" or "mine". This is the complete opposite of the idea "my past lives". Read here the right translation of "past abodes" and the actuality of the teaching: https://suttacentral.net/sn22.79/en/bodhi

At Savatthi. “Bhikkhus, those ascetics and brahmins who recollect their manifold past abodes all recollect the five aggregates subject to clinging or a certain one among them. What five?

When recollecting thus, bhikkhus: ‘I had such form in the past,’ it is just form that one recollects. When recollecting: ‘I had such a feeling in the past,’ it is just feeling that one recollects. When recollecting: ‘I had such a perception in the past,’ it is just perception that one recollects. When recollecting: ‘I had such volitional formations in the past,’ it is just volitional formations that one recollects. When recollecting: ‘I had such consciousness in the past,’ it is just consciousness that one recollects

Therefore, bhikkhus, any kind of form whatsoever … Any kind of feeling whatsoever … Any kind of perception whatsoever … Any kind of volitional formations whatsoever … Any kind of consciousness whatsoever, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near, all consciousness should be seen as it really is with correct wisdom thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’

These are not "your" past lives, just like your current body is not "your" body in an absolute-reality sense. In a conventional sense, though, the sense that we use when we say "You are Nicky," it seems appropriate to say they are in fact your past lives. They are the forms that this current tumbling stream of habitual perceptions identified with as belonging to it. Even though perception owning anything is ultimately incoherent, we use this conventional language all the time, referring to people by name, etc.

People who want to say they're Cleopatra are strongly invested in clinging anyway. There's no saving them through semantic precision alone.

Anyway, just finished the Tina Rasmussen episode, and excited to hear its companion piece!

RE: New Interview w/ Stephen Synder! (hard jhana, Pa Auk Sayadaw, Zen)
Answer
2/12/20 9:50 AM as a reply to Matthew.
Matthew:
Anyway, just finished the Tina Rasmussen episode, and excited to hear its companion piece!
Awesome!

I'd be interested in what you think, especially having seen the two episodes in close proximity  :-)

RE: New Interview w/ Stephen Synder! (hard jhana, Pa Auk Sayadaw, Zen)
Answer
2/12/20 10:11 AM as a reply to Nicky.
Although I don't think insight and awakening require belief or visions of past lives, I doubt very much that this is a mistranslation, given the numerous suttas in which the Buddha talks about rebirth in ways that leaves no doubt he means it literally. Like when he says ''at the dissolution of the body, after death'', then speaks of being reborn in some other life-form due to one,s kamma, and all his numerous talks of rebirth in different forms of life like hells, heavens, and so forth. He also mentions numerous times where certain disciples of his have been reborn, with specific details, like one of his main lay disciple reborn in Tusita heaven after he clearly had died. When he recounts his own vision of his past lives, he says ''There I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance'' etc.