Q: What are some of your thoughts on the paranormal in Buddhism?
A: Well, not to long ago for one of The Zennist blogs (can’t remember which one) I looked up the word ‘paranormal’. What struck me is the dictionary essentially said paranormal was beyond the range of science and recognizable phenomena. Since all of science rests on third-person knowledge—first-person experiences seem, by definition, to be paranormal, like the awakening of Siddhartha when he became Buddha. Even our aspiration to become enlightened is a paranormal aspiration. There is no way to measure our aspiration or our awakening by some external metric. You could even say the Buddha taught a paranormal doctrine—its was certainly supramundane and not for worldly consumption.
Q: What about your experience with pure Mind? Wasn’t it paranormal?
A: Yes it was and still is. I think there is a Q&A on it, Bodhicitta: a close encounter which qualifies as a major paranormal encounter. Others, who were with me at the time, experienced some of what I was experiencing. I learned, first hand, just how powerful Mind is. When Mind opens up like this, it is impossible to resist. This is a particular psychic power that is not discussed in the Buddha’s discourses, but it is certainly implied. I won’t go into the details of what can be done but, suffice it to say, that Mind, awakened, is a paranormal experience like no other—it’s powerful. Previous to such an awakening, it is possible to delude ourselves into believing that we’ve had some kind of great Buddhist experience. The truth of the matter, we’re not even close. One thing this paranormal experience does that confirms it is definitely Buddhist, the canon makes sense for the first time. For me it was, “So this is the luminous Mind” or another time, “So this is the Mind that is bodhi,” or, “This is pure Mind.” Then, finally, you see that the world is a dependent origination of the Mind, like a pot is an origination of clay. This is when you think to yourself that the Lankavatara Sutra is a great Sutra.
Q: What do you think keeps people who practice Buddhism from having a paranormal awakening like you did?
A: They are being told, for one thing, that anything paranormal they encounter in practice is probably makyo or the realm of Mara the demon. Such experiences are part of what happens when you work to realize pure Mind. Just don’t hold on to them. The idea is to realize Mind, not have different kinds of experiences for their own sake. Also, experiences have to translate into what the Buddha really taught. This means that you can discern what the Buddha taught from what you’ve been handed by your teachers, much of it probably being wrong. What good is the experience of chanting or sitting in zazen, accumulating hours of sitting time, if you still understand Buddhism incorrectly? With the awakening of Mind comes real and valuable knowledge. It is amazing.
Q: What was your biggest paranormal experience?
A: You could say it was experiencing Mind which you find out later is the very substance of the universe. Buddhists, today, tend to run away from the idea that everything is a phenomenalization of the One Mind. I guess it is too paranormal for them to handle. In 1976 the mystical experience which I described in a previous Q&A is the first entrance in seeing how a Buddha sees things—seeing them from awakened substance. I mean there is nothing that is not luminous and an expression of Mind-as-substance. What is ironic about this is nobody really wants this to happen—you see that also. One realizes that ignorance is the mother of evil which comes with lots of suffering.
Q: Does this paranormal vision stay in which you see things the way a Buddha does?
A: No. You have too much inertia going on in the opposite direction. I have had to clear that out which takes years to accomplish. It is true that the Buddhas sustain you which is another paranormal aspect; which is described somewhat in the Lankavatara Sutra. They have to. A person has accumulated so much habit inertia which comes from discriminating a fictional, objective world out there, they can’t just go on their own. I should mention this, when people have a spiritual experience it eventually goes away because of habit inertia or vasana. People don’t fully realize how fucked-up they really are. It can get to the point that they are so fucked-up they close off to the light—to a closing of Mind.
Q: At times what you are saying sounds so hopeless for the rest of us. Is it?
A: That’s paranormal, too. It is not hopeless. It only seems this way because, unconsciously, we are still excited about the toy store of fictions the West has to offer, and all the little goodies in it; the home we can buy, the BMW, the new iPhone and so on. If our mind really loved Buddhism in which we are engaged in seeking the awakened Mind, hope is there big time no matter how huge the toy store of fictions is—a giant Walmart. Your Buddha-mind is here right now. It just doesn’t recognize itself because it is caught up in all the distracting bullshit—its very own phenomenalizations. We humans are quite capable of deluding ourselves and making one catastrophe after another. Also, we want our cake and to be able to eat it, too. I mean, we want the mind of a toddler who gets excited playing in the mud, and the mind of a sage who is not at all interested in playing in the mud. We can’t have both.
Q: Do some people close to you sense the Mind from being physically next to you?
A: Sure it happens and not infrequently. I certainly sense everyone’s Buddha-nature who stands or sits close to me. It is not unusual for someone to sense the power of Mind for a week or two after they visit me. But eventually their habit inertia veils it. Its like a dark cloud blocking out the sun. All this is paranormal. When they eventually get old and die, they will revisit this luminous Mind hopefully to realize that this is really who they are.
Q: So why not start of Dharma center or a Zendo and help people?
A: I have wonderful friends who have a coffee shop. I am the Grand Old Dude. There are lots of upper graduate students there who love to hang out. We go out together, joke around, and basically have a wonderful time. I empower them and hope they will, one day, realize Buddha Mind. That is all a Buddhist temple is really about.