Interview with Petros
The following is a transcript of an interview conducted by phone with Petros by Jan Christenson, editor of the Wasatch Light of Spirit, a now-defunct monthly newspaper from Utah dealing with New Age, metaphysical and meditation themes. The interview took place in the Spring of 2001 and has been slightly revised for typos and grammar.
Q. When was your website, www.eWakening.net, started?
P. That was back in early 1997. I had just returned from a year in Korea and Japan, where I had been investigating various spiritual disciplines, supporting myself by teaching English. I just put up a small website containing some materials related to spiritual awakening. Calling it "ewakening" was a way of referencing the technology of the Internet, and how it made this new form of distribution possible -- a new sort of awakening.
Q. Now, the site is just a gateway, right?
P. Right. I don't expect anyone to get "awakened" just from reading my site! (Laughs.) Although it could happen -- not due to anything I can take credit for though; but there are some really powerful ancient texts there. I originally intended the site just as a resource for people looking for basic information, and also a place to post some of what I felt were the most important texts or scriptures of awakening. Now it has become the gateway to my teaching work for many people, apparently.
Q. How did your own spiritual journey begin? What motivated you to seek out truth?
P. As with most people -- and I find my own experience to be very typical -- it came when I attained a certain level of responsible adulthood and started to get sick of my intellect. This was the mid-1990s. I had already acquired some academic success (having earned a Master's degree in English, working on my Ph.D., teaching part-time at a University) and some general life experience, a lot of travel, and some heartbreak. I turned inward as many people do, who wonder, is this all there is? But in my case the turning was much, much more vigorous, more determined, and as a result the depths I hit were more profound than most. I had a certain impulsive if not self-destructive streak; I felt I had little to lose, having lost faith in the intellect; so I think I risked more (psychologically), surrendered more, and thus paradoxically gained more.
Q. But you'd been studying spirituality for many years already, right?
P. Yes, but until my "spiritual crisis" it had been largely an intellectual affair, which is not the same thing at all. By the time of the crisis, I completely doubted the powers of the intellect to solve the problems of the universe. I had learned from my years in academia that far from solving problems, the intellect creates even more. I knew that wasn't the answer. That was one of the triggers for the spiritual crisis, that profound turning inward, that first led to subtle visions of higher planes and then (thankfully) beyond them.
Q. "Thankfully" beyond the visions?
P. Yes, because too many people get stuck in the level of visions, revelations, channelling, and all that stuff, which is absolutely not freedom. It's just a more subtle form of distraction. Thankfully too, my years of intellectual study of religions, psychology and the occult gave me a fairly solid groundwork from which to view these experiences with objectivity. My naturally sceptical personality also stood me in good stead; I don't just "believe" in things, not even my own ideas and visions. Never have.
Q. Actually, I was planning to ask if you'd had any paranormal or visionary experiences and you've answered that. Do you want to elaborate on that? A lot of people are very curious about these experiences in general.
P. I know, but as I said it's important to try to maintain objectivity about such things. I've had some incredibly powerful inner experiences -- visions of higher planes, visions in which the very material universe we take for granted was seen to be a whole lotta nothin' going on. But I don't talk much about my experiences -- as wonderful and important as they were for me -- because they can be just another trap for the mind, another ego-trap. They are not tantamount to enlightenement! Too many people get stuck on inner-plane experiences and I'm glad I had them in order to know how to help people avoid attachment to them.
Q. But you don't dismiss them?
P. No, that wouldn't be wise. They really represent deep psychological truths and need to be understood for that purpose. Sometimes, they also represent transpersonal truths, cosmic wisdom or what-have-you, but not always. They need to be examined with as little emotional attachment as possible. And one must never forget the main thing is enlightenment, not astral-tourism.
Q. Okay, then, Petros, what is enlightenment?
P. Hey, wouldn't that make a great title for a magazine? (Laughs). Let me take a few pot shots here in no particular order. Enlightenment is total dissolution of delusion. It's knowing that ultimately, nothing exists except a perfect, boundless consciousness of which we are all a part whether we recognize it or not. That everything manifesting in the material world -- in the cosmos -- is transient, as the Buddha taught. That there is no self-existent 'thing' called the self or ego -- the primary Buddhist teaching of anatman. That everything is literally interconnected. And so forth.
Q. Have you experienced this enlightenment?
P. It's not to be 'experienced.' It just is. That's the point. It's not an experience. But it can be recognized. It's not a big explosion in your head, necessarily; just an insight or cognition that comes to you at some point.
Q. The old, "it's here now, you're already it" maxim, right?
P. Umm....now we're getting close to oversimplifying things, getting into that trendy neo-advaita stuff. I mean, they're right, in a sense, but let's not jump onto that bandwagon just yet. Of course you're "it," but saying it and knowing it for yourself are not the same thing. And you still have to live day to day, which is what practice is about. I don't know anyone who has perfected this practice in their lives, who is what some call "fully" enlightened, and that includes 99% of the people out there teaching enlightenment!
Q. Since you say that, what is your opinion of [several well-known teachers named]?
P. I generally don't like to opine about other teachers specifically if I can help it. Word gets around about the bad ones and also about the good ones, especially with the Internet. People will gravitate toward whoever they have a karmic connection with, good or bad. I think most of them are well-intentioned and trying to do their best with what the cosmos has given them, just like me, but as I said, exceedingly rare is the fully enlightened one. The best ones I've ever personally met, best meaning having the highest awareness and least "dirt," would be Ammachi and the late Yogi Ramsuratkumar. And perhaps one or two nameless silent yogis in India -- and who knows how many more of those there are that we may never know about because of they don't wish to be known to us? But I do suspect anyone who jumps on the satsang bandwagon. It's all too trendy for me.
Q. You distrust "slickness," is that it?
P. Yeah, you could say that. Although sometimes I use slickness in my own writing, to poke fun at that sort of thing, and then I'll forget I was supposed to be parodying it! (Laughs)
Q. Does anyone really need a guru or teacher?
P. Yes, at some point most do need a human, live teacher. Even if it's only a glimpse, such as I had of Yogi Ramsuratkumar. If you're (karmically) "ripe," that may be all it takes. You need that human contact to know this is real, that it is possible for a living being. It doesn't mean you have to shave your hair off and move to an ashram unless that's your karma!
Q. Have you ever been involved with the occult or metaphysical movements?
P. I've studied just about everything under the sun. I've been studying religious philsophies and occult movements for twenty years. I started, in high school, with very intellectual and materialistic philosophies such as that of Ayn Rand (Objectivism) -- the exaltation of the ego! -- and moved into Western ritual magic such as that of Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism, and even attained a fairly high level of "adeptship" (or so they say) while in Phoenix for many years. The symbolism and historical accoutrements struck a nerve with me. Who knows, maybe it was some past-life debt I had to pay? I'm being a bit facetious! In any case, after my profound awakening took place, it became increasingly obvious to me how utterly caught up in egotism and delusion all these groups were! I just couldn't have anything to do with them any more. I mean, all those titles and high-sounding offices and grades -- how obvious can it get?
Q. When did you decide to start teaching?
P. It wasn't solely my own decision. I mean, of course I wanted to share what I had experienced with people, because it's just so wondrous and liberating, you know? It's natural to share it, so of course I had that impulse. But to teach as a formal discipline is not something that someone can just decide to do on a lark. I actually waited a few years before embarking on a formal teaching endeavor, and it was due to inner-plane guidance from certain Masters, which I won't get into here.
Q. How do you go about this teaching?
P. I try to show up -- literally, to be totally available to anyone who needs it, who wants it. Of course, if they don't want totality, if they want a little placebo or fortune-cookie teachings, psychic stuff or whatever, I can't force them to take the higher. I may help them with psychic development, try to use my gifts of intuition and energy channelling to help them as much as I can if it seems appropriate. But that's very much the lesser gift.
Q. What 'tradition' would you characterize this work as belonging to? Advaita, Zen, yoga, et cetera?
P. Clearly, what all teachings point to is an underlying reality that is not restricted to any one culture or time period, and that is what many people today are attempting to formulate -- a truly 'Western,' 21st century tradition that pays its debts to its predecessors but is not dependent upon them. When enlightenment teachings started coming here from the Orient in the 1950s and '60s, they were so very culture dependent -- the Maharishi and the beads and mantras and so forth, even Zen had this quality -- that they turned many Westerners off and were easily dismissed as a fringe movement or cultic enthusiasm. Today, that doesn't happen nearly so much. So I teach universal expanded awareness, informed by the best that these traditions have to offer. That said, I derive tremendous inspiration from the purity and simplicity of Zen and from the laser-like precision of Ramana Maharshi's "method of inquiry," a form of dialogic interaction between teacher and student.
P. Yes. That just means engaging in pointed dialogue with someone, not unlike what we're doing now, but very focused. It requires a certain intuition into the questioner's state of being, also. It might be favorably compared to the Socratic method in Western philosophy in which wisdom is drawn out of the seeker through pointed inquiry. It seems like such a natural human process that it's easy to take it for granted, but one has to be vigilant that it doesn't simply devolve into chit-chat.
Q. You've been accused of having a sort of wise-guy attitude about spirituality, maybe not taking things seriously enough for some people?
P. I'm sure. I don't take anything too seriously -- I mean, enlightenment is the recognition that everything is transient, right? That ultimately "nothing ever happened" as some Masters have told us, right? So what's the justification for taking our petty mundane lives so seriously?
Q. Perhaps it's a matter of compassion for suffering?
P. That's a different matter. Compassion is there, it arises naturally when you've seen through the fakery of the cosmos as it appears to the unenlightened. Compassion is a great thing and all true Masters have spoken of its importance. But that isn't the same as being all serious about everything. Some of the masters I most admire, notably Osho Rajneesh and Fred Lenz, had terrific senses of humor! Even Lee Lozowick, a contemporary teacher I much admire, is notorious for his somewhat bawdy humor.
Q. Do you meditate? Do you recommend meditation at all?
P. I do meditate and I do recommend it to students, but not as the be-all and end-all of spirituality. It's just one part of spirituality. It's a way of getting clear from day to day, when we're most likely to get caught up in the mundane traps of life. It's not overemphasized in my teaching. Indeed, too much meditation is harmful. Some people like to refer to themselves, for instance, as "meditators" -- as if it was some kind of achievement. I think that's a horrible way to label oneself. Student, yes, devotee, even better; but "meditator?" Might as well call oneself a "dieter." (laughs)
Q. Is there a practice you recommend for students?
P. Same as I engage in myself: Self-remembrance, mindful awareness, detachment or dispassion (goes with compassion), and short meditation periods -- usually upon arising from bed and prior to retiring at night, since they're the best times, the quiet times, when you're most open to what's going on inside. Plus, in the morning you're preparing yourself for the day with the right attitude, and at night you're closing the book on the day just passed, summing things up. But it must be done with an attitude of devotion and gratitude to the Universe -- God, Goddess, Truth, Reality, call it what you like. Gratitude is crucial. A lot of "meditators" forget that part, their heads being stuck so far up their ..... um, navels! (laughs)
Q. There you go poking at the meditators again!
P. Sorry. But seriously, look at a roomful of meditators sometime -- I don't care if they're Zen or TM or whatever damn sect. Too often you see people with furrowed brows looking like they're going to explode or throw a tantrum or something. It's sad. Or funny.
Q. So, ritual or ceremony really isn't a big part of your tradition?
P. No, not as such. I recommend the practice of gratitude every day, which may mean a moment of silent contemplation before taking meals, for example. I always offer up my food to the Universe before eating. Not everyone does that though, and so far I haven't felt comfortable installing it as a formal "practice" for my community. I also "offer up surrender" in the mornings upon rising from sleep, at sunset, and just prior to going to sleep at night. Some kind of ancient impulse, maybe.
Q. Your community is mostly "virtual," isn't it?
P. (Laughs) Yes, we're very much 21st century devotee-geeks around here! I have more students "on the internet" (as if they lived there!) than I do physically here in L.A. It just panned out that way. But I am open to that changing at any time, as the karma goes. Luckily I enjoy travelling -- I've been across the U.S. a dozen times by myself, by car, visiting students and friends and co-workers in this "mission" and it's a real joy. I do it almost every year and it's always the highlight of my year.
Q. Is there a mass shift taking place, or is an apocalypse looming, as many traditions warn of?
P. Well, we're all going to die someday. Maybe tomorrow, some of us. That's a guarantee. I say, worry about your own personal apocalypse which is most likely to come well before any worldwide or cosmic apocalypse.
Q. What about the first part -- a mass shift in awareness, an increasing of awareness in the world?
P. If it comes, it will come by the same route it always comes, the collective effect of real devotees in the world. We can make a difference, but I don't hold to any time frame in particular. Certainly a critical mass could be attained with enough energy, the right kind of vibrations all focused very tightly and with determination, but it's not a given. This is what "Cosmic Invocational Meditation" is about [a special group meditation developed by Petros, available on his website] but it's not going to happen by itself.
Q. Will spiritual teachers such as yourself play a role in any possible "shift?"
P. When I mentioned devotees, that includes teachers. A teacher must be a devotee first. By themselves, teachers can accomplish very little. You can have devotees without teachers very easily; but a teacher without devotees is nothing at all.
Q. Do you have any suggestions for the curious or the seekers here?
P. I don't have much patience for the merely curious. I'd say, find out what you're curious about and decide if it's worth getting real about. Seekers need to become devotees first and foremost. They don't need more information or knowledge -- most seekers are suffering under a big weight of information already. I know, I was there! I got the dang t-shirt!
Petros may be contacted through www.ewakening.net.
home / contents