THE FORUMS

October 21st, 2017
Genpo Roshi's Big Mind
Your rating: None Average: 5 (3 votes)
Bookmark and Share
Hamlet

Hamlet

Respected Member

Join Date: 12/08/2008 | Posts: 590

I’ve been an Ecky-head for the past two years, and I view him as the most profound (non-)thinker to have ever entered my life. However, in recent months his top spot on my list of favourite gurus has been threatened by a modern American Zen Master by the name of Genpo Roshi. Roshi gives workshops where in the space of an afternoon he helps people who have never meditated in their lives achieve states of consciousness that have traditionally required years of dedicated zen practice. He calls his process “Big Mind” (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Mind).

Genpo Roshi, aka Dennis Merzel, had his first awakening experience while on a trip with his friends in the California desert in February of 1971. He attained spontaneous enlightenment, Tolle-style, and spent the next year meditating in the mountains. He then found a Zen master who became his teacher. In 1999, he began developing the Big Mind technique by incorporating Western voice dialogue techniques into traditional zen.
A Big Mind session works as follows: A person known as “the Facilitator” leads the session by asking to speak to various aspects of the self, called “voices”. There are thousands of voices, but some of the more commonly called-upon voices include the Controller, the Skeptic, the Protector, the Damaged Self, the Seeking Mind, Big Mind, Big Heart, Yin Compassion, Yang Compassion, and Joyous Mind, to name a few. When the Facilitator calls upon a particular voice, the audience then responds in first person, pretending to BE that voice. The Facilitator then asks various questions about the function of that voice, and the audience responds. It may look something like this:

Facilitator: I’d like to speak to the voice of the Controller. Who are you?
Audience: The Controller.
Facilitator: Okay. What is your function?
Audience: To control things.
Facilitator: Alright. What do you want to control?
Audience: I’d like to control everything. I’d like to control events around me. The future.
Facilitator: What else? Let’s hear more.
Audience: I’d like to control thoughts and emotions. I really hate chaos and unpredictability.
Facilitator: Great. I’d like now to speak to the voice of the Protector. Who are you?
Audience: The Protector.
Facilitator: What’s your job as the Protector?
Audience: My job is to Protect the Self against harm.
… and so on.

As you can see, it’s a very simple process, verging on the banal. You’re probably thinking “How the hell is that gonna help me?” I felt the same skepticism when I first got into this.

The Big Mind process deals with fear, vulnerability, and other such egoic “voices” in a way that makes us understand their usefulness. Fear is no longer seen as something undesirable, but rather as a useful function that warns the Self of imminent danger. Thinking about the future is not merely something that prevents us from blessing out in the Now, but is actually an essential function, without which our lives would be a complete mess. Recognising the “job” done by the ego creates an appreciation for these various voices: fear, the planner, the fixer, the controller, etc. They have essential functions to fill. Similarly, we get to know the opposite corner of the triangle, where Big Mind resides. Here, there is no concept of self, there is no subject-object duality. There is only the absolute. Emptiness. By speaking to Big Mind, Non-Seeking Mind, Non-Grasping Mind, and other aspects of the right corner of the triangle, we discover our true essence.

The trick is to just go along with the process and pretend it's a game as you’re starting out. Fake it till you make it. As you go through more and more voices, you start realising the tremendous power of this technique. You actually become the Master of your inner voices. You learn to recognise the functions of these voices and to bring out the particular aspect of the self appropriate to the situation at hand. This process is extremely quick and does not require years of meditation practice to work. It’s pretty much instant. I was able to experience these states very deeply after two or three goes at this.
Here is a short clip of the man in action. I suggest you go along with it to see for yourself:


The results of doing Big Mind a few times are quite astounding, and in my opinion give an incredible understanding of how our mind and emotions work. What makes the teaching so powerful is several things, but I think most importantly – it sidesteps the dualistic tension between Ego and Consciousness that besets most spiritual teachings, including the work of Eckhart Tolle. Rather than seeing these two as opposites, Genpo Roshi sees them as two corners of a triangle. The left side (somewhat analogous to the left hemisphere of the brain) is the relative mind, or Ego. The right side (like the right hemisphere of the brain) is the absolute mind, or Consciousness. The top corner is the “apex” which incorporates both of these aspects, recognising the value in both. Living out of the apex of the triangle permits us to be a fully integrated, free-functioning human being.


Tolle seldom, if ever, talks about the usefulness of the Ego. This is understandable, since people in society are so caught up in “Doing” that it seems more relevant to remind them of the “Being” side of things. However, our silly little dualistic minds can’t simply recognise the value of Being and incorporate it into our lives. In the process, we begin to fight Doing. There is a saying that goes “If you prefer chocolate, you don’t need to judge or demonise vanilla.” The mind doesn’t really understand this, however. As we begin to pursue a spiritual path in search of Being, we simultaneously declare a crusade to conquer the Ego. Genpo Roshi’s Big Mind process elegantly sidesteps this dichotomy by recognising the value of both the Ego AND Being. The problem is not that we HAVE an Ego, but that we are stuck in it. However, you can also be stuck in Being (just look at Tolle’s stint on London park benches). We mustn’t become stuck in either corner, but rather move freely between the two as the situation requires.

I won’t write anymore on this subject, cause Genpo explains it much better than I ever could.
I first stumbled across this guy while following a series of interviews with spiritual teachers at www.masteringthepowerofnow.com It’s really worth checking out, especially if you’ve been into these things for a few years. After listening to the interview I watched a couple of YouTube clips with Genpo Roshi and finally decided to buy a home study DVD-course off his website for 37 bucks (www.bigmind.org/Home.html), which has really blown my mind. There are also free Big Mind sessions streamed live on the internet (bigmind.org/zen-eye/) every Thursday and Sunday. However, these are often quite advanced and require a deep understanding of the process.

Here is an interview if you’d like to know a little bit more about the man himself. The other parts can be found on YouTube.
Login or register to post.
#1
Deft

Deft

Trusted Member

Join Date: 06/16/2008 | Posts: 2040

Hamlet wrote:

Genpo Roshi, aka Dennis Merzel, had his first awakening experience while taking a trip with his friends in the California desert in February of 1971. He attained spontaneous enlightentment.
Sounds like a Mad LSD trip back in the day..
haha thanks for sharing bro.
Login or register to post.
#2
Gseus

Gseus

Respected Member

Join Date: 09/04/2008 | Posts: 915

What you're criticising about Tolle is right, he makes it appear as if we were possessed by some kind of demon we have to exorcise, something outside of us which has no good in it. Rather than a normal part of us which likes to mask itself as the whole.

And I listened to some of the things your Roshi says, sounds fascinating.

BUT

Doesn't he overcomplicate things big time? Making up big distinctions of different parts of our mind that we have to understand first? That's opposed to all that I have learned so far.
__________________
It's not about more, adding stuff.
It's about less, removing stuff that's holding you back.
Login or register to post.
#3
Hamlet

Hamlet

Respected Member

Join Date: 12/08/2008 | Posts: 590

@ Amor: Of course Tolle doesn't demonise the Ego. But as I said in the quote about vanilla and chocolate, our dualistic minds will begin to disown the Ego as a consequence of trying to move towards Being. We believe we first have to get rid of the mind in order to attain Being. In fact, you can't get rid of either Being or your mind. It's just a matter of where you reside. Adding an apex to the triangle doesn't make Mind and Being incompatible.

And no, Tolle doesn't talk nearly enough about how being present will allow you to use your mind. He only mentions it briefly. But it's really important to understand this.

@Gseus: Yes, the "overcomplication" was my primary objection at first. I thought "no way do I wanna run around thinking about which voice I'm acting through right now". However, the opposite has occured. I'm now much more able to enter a state of presence simply by saying to myself: "Who are you? Big Mind." And then, snap! I'm present. Crazy stuff. It's like whatever baggage your carrying at the moment just drops off because you're no longer the Self that has to juggle all these things... you're Big Mind. In contrast, if you remain identified as the Self and think that you have to somehow process/overcome/surrender to a bunch of circumstances in your life in order to be present, then you're taking the long route towards the Now. Like: "Oh, I can't be present until this fear inside me goes away. Hmm, I have to surrender to the fear. Surrender.... surrenderrrrrr!!"
Login or register to post.
#4
English Boy

English Boy

Senior Member

Join Date: 11/02/2008 | Posts: 201

 hey man, i remember reading a book called Howards End by E.M Forster. One of the themes was to the outer life vs the inner life or as the author put it, to see life steadily or to see it whole. i think it is the same essence of what is being said here. The outer life/small mind has grit, ego has survival value, fragmenting everything to its parts. Inner life has humanity, it sees the wholeness and onesness and inter-relationship between all things. 

Its just like how in the blueprint i did not get how to really be without ego and have boundaries. You need a self to have boundaries.

Also, to have intent and to be egoless.

Thats why its always a mixture of two. woo and intent.

You haver the ego that wants something, that has intent, but you have the detachment and level of awareness to be free from outcome at the same time

You have positivity, embracing all humans as equal in value, but paradoxically, you have the understanding that when needs arise, you need to bring the hammer down
Login or register to post.
#5
Hamlet

Hamlet

Respected Member

Join Date: 12/08/2008 | Posts: 590

Yes the understanding that some things are in the left-hand corner of the triangle and other things are in the right-hand corner of the triangle clears up a lot of paradoxes. They ARE incompatible, but luckily we can function out of the apex where we choose wisely when to act out of the limited Self and when to reside in Being. Woo and intent are great examples. Intent requires separation. Your longing to be united with your polar opposite: the feminine. It's a left-hand corner energy. Woo requires connectedness. It makes you feel alive - connected to other people, connected to the music, living life. It's a right-hand corner energy.
Login or register to post.
#6
Hamlet

Hamlet

Respected Member

Join Date: 12/08/2008 | Posts: 590

Another example is detachment from outcome and setting goals. Time and time again there are threads here on the forum asking: "How can I be detached from the outcome and at the same time have the motivation to go out 4 nights a week?" Well the answer is that detachment is a Being thing, setting goals is a Doing thing. You choose moment to moment when to be in Being and when to be in Doing. If you're constantly pursuing some future goal of being successful with women, you're probably stuck in "Doing" and miss the power of the Now. But the opposite is also true: if you're just blissing out in a nightclub and content at not approaching anything, you may be "stuck" in Being and not realising the value of pursuing your dreams and living at your edge.

If you do believe in God, think of it this way: If the point was simply to reach in Enlightenment, to become One with Consciousness, then why were we separated to begin with? If nothing in the world of form matters, then why bother going through all the stages? Well the answer is that the world of form DOES matter. Our separation on the level of form makes possible wonderful little games and challenges in life that could never have occurred if we were had remained as formless Consciousness. Think of the word "epic". Without forms, we could never experience "epic". We could never experience the excitement of  living through an exhilirating adventure of epic proportions. Consciousness floating around in empty space is hardly epic. It just is. It's not compassionate either. It's not loving. It's not sublime. It's not beautiful. It just is. Form is required for all this to mean anything. So form has tremendous value. Forms are not just obstacles to reaching Enlightenment. Enlightenment wouldn't even be anything special without separation. I mean think how AWESOME it is to be on a spiritual path. Yes - even in terms of your personal story, which Eckhart says is irrelevant. The story may be irrelevant from the point of view of Being, but that's just half of what we are. Our other half is human. Together they form the Human Being. And the Human Being wants to live an exciting, fulfilling life and have a damn good Story to tell by the end of it. Funny how this realisation also makes it so much easier to accept the circumstances of your life situation as neat little challenges to be overcome, which actually brings you closer to Being.

When you actually appreciate the value of a Life Story, you can say to yourself: "Wow, this challenge I'm having right now is going to make a great memory for me as I grow old. I'll know for the rest of my life that in this moment I played the game of life and I played it well!" On the other hand, when you see the Story as pointless, you think: "Damn, I'm allowing this challenge to agitate me. That's a sign that I STILL have an Ego, despite all this work. Another fail. Okay, time to surrender. Surrender! SURRENDERRRRR...." When you view having a life story as something "bad", the challenge you're facing right now becomes yet another reminder that you still haven't made it spiritually. It thus becomes an obstacle to be overcome so that you can return to bliss. By contrast, when you do care about your Life Story, you can WILLINGLY leave blissful indifference aside for a moment and act out of the separate Self, engaging with the world of form in all its splendour with victories, let-downs, exuberance, fury, etc. It broadens the palette of experiences accessible to your brush as you paint the Story of your Life. 
Login or register to post.
#7
Hamlet

Hamlet

Respected Member

Join Date: 12/08/2008 | Posts: 590

I found this link to an audio clip in an old thread posted by Fucky.

It's Genpo Roshi doing the Big Mind technique with a group of guys. This audio is much more useful than the video I posted above of the big group. I really recommend you listen to this and play along with it. If it doesn't work for you the first time, do it a few times.

diydharma.org/simple-exercise-recognizing-big-mind-part-1-genpo-roshi-amp-ken-wilber
Login or register to post.
#8
Hamlet

Hamlet

Respected Member

Join Date: 12/08/2008 | Posts: 590

For clarification, I'm not hating on Tolle above. As I said, he's my number one and probably always will be. But now I don't see him as having the WHOLE answer, only the answer to the Being part. 99% of the time he speaks out of that corner of the triangle. But Genpo Roshi takes you to all 3 corners. He hasn't yet gotten me into as deep a meditative state as Tolle has. Ecky is still king of summoning Presence in my book. But that's just 1 out of 3 corners. Genpo Roshi will show you the other two and create an appreciation for the whole.

Now I'm gonna stop bombarding my own thread and let other people speak up. Bring it.
Login or register to post.
#9
Mikey~

Mikey~

Senior Member

Join Date: 12/25/2008 | Posts: 137

This is very cool man. Thanks for posting. I have a question

How has doing Big Mind affected your game? Can you give us some concrete in-field examples?
__________________
ATTACK
Login or register to post.
#10
Hamlet

Hamlet

Respected Member

Join Date: 12/08/2008 | Posts: 590

Well I recently got into a relationship so I haven't been gaming much for the past month. However, I have made some observations:

At the gym, I can call up certain voices that help me push past my comfort zone. For instance, I can call on the Master, or Fury by saying:

"Who am I?"
"FURY!"

Or another common way to facilitate identification with a voice:

"Master! Are you in?"
"YES!"
"Are you awake?"
"YES!"

This actually fills me with adrenaline and determination. Well, "fills me" may be an exaggeration. It's more like I get a hint of these feelings. The rest I have to summon on my own, by focusing on that initial feeling. So it's by no means perfect state control at this early stage. I haven't really tried it out in field much, since I spend most of my weekends curled up in bed with the cherish, but I imagine I could do something similar in a nightclub. Call on the voice of "desire" for instance, or call on "Yang". Something to that effect. Once again, this won't turn me into a stud on the spot. It'll offer more like a hint of the sensation. The rest I'll have to summon up by focusing on that initial feeling. But that's because I'm new to this stuff.

I managed to get out of bed this morning despite an initial resistance by simply switching the voice in my head from that of "laziness" to that of "activeness". Note: I didn't OVERCOME my laziness. I just switched out of identification with it. You start to notice barely perceptible shifts in your state when you get into this process and realise that the mind is constantly sliding in and out of various voices in your daily life without you even noticing. Now you can begin to notice how the mind functions and make conscious decisions as to how you want to think and act in a certain situation. Being stuck in a voice and unable to get out is called dukka,  which means "stuckness" - like the axle of a cart that has become stuck and prevents it from rolling freely. This blockage is another term for Ego. You become rigid. In Buddhism, dukka is usually translated into English as "suffering", but Genpo Roshi says that "stuckness" is a closer approximation of the word's meaning, and this makes sense. You are stuck in identification with a particular voice, such as "desiring mind" or "the complainer". You can't let go of it, so you are stuck. Big Mind "lubricates" this axle so that you can consciously switch in and out of identification with these aspects of the Self as the situation requires.
Login or register to post.