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Everyday Buddhism Interview with Scott Snibbe

Everyday Buddhism Podcast Episode 61 Scott Snibbe A Skeptic's Path to Enlightenment

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Skeptic’s Path host Scott Snibbe joins Wendy Shinyo Haylett on her podcast, Everyday Buddhism, for a conversation about the power of Buddhism and meditation to help enhance our good qualities, make us happier, and—ultimately—help make those around us happier.

[00:00:00] Wendy Shinyo Haylett: Welcome to Everyday Buddhism, making every day better by applying the proven tools found in Buddhist concepts.

And I have a special guest episode today in this episode, I talk with Scott Snibbe, the creator and host of the podcast, A Skeptic’s Path to Enlightenment. Scott is a pioneering interactive artist and augmented reality entrepreneur and the host of the meditation podcast, A Skeptic’s Path to Enlightenment.

Scott Snibbe is a twenty-year student of Tibetan Buddhism whose teachers include Geshe Ngawang Dakpa, Choden Rinpoche, Ven. Rene Feusi, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Gyumed Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Jampa, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Inspired by his teachers, he leads meditations that infuse the pure lineage of the great Buddhist masters with science, humor and the realities of the modern world. Over the course of a career as a digital artist and entrepreneur, Snibbe has created best-selling art music and social apps and collaborated with musicians and film filmmakers, including Bjork, James Cameron and Philip Glass.

His interactive exhibits have been collected by both science and art museums, including the Whitney Museum of American Art and New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Listen in as two podcasters and longtime Buddhist practitioners explore our mutual confidence in the path of Dharma and how we view how Buddhism fits in today’s world and how we both agree that it can truly make all beings happier.

I discovered Scott’s podcast and immediately invited him for conversation. And we decided that we could talk together for days probably, but, trying to keep it within the realm of a normal size podcast, I invited him for a conversation and that conversation with Scott starts now. 

Well, Scott, thank you so much for joining us on the Everyday Buddhism podcast.

It’s fun for me to have you on this podcast episode, because number one, I just discovered your podcast, or I guess I just discovered you, although you’ve been existing for a while. I discovered your podcast when I was looking around for another podcast. Like I need another one to listen to like a hole in the head, but I was scrolling through my app and I was looking at Buddhism and related subjects and spirituality and philosophy and psychology and boom.

It popped up and I had never seen it before yet. You’ve been around since early last year. So I was like, whoa, a new podcast. I said it at the intro, but it’s A Skeptic’s Path to Enlightenment. And I immediately reached out to you and said, would you like to be a guest? And we hooked up for a little pre conversation last week.

And I think both of us felt like we could talk our each other’s ears off. So that’s what we’re going to do here today, at least for a while within the confines of a podcast episode format. So thank you. 

[00:04:11] Scott Snibbe: Thank you. I’m so happy to be here and really appreciate the invitation and your wonderful podcast.

[00:04:16] Wendy Shinyo Haylett: Thank you. Scott’s podcast is very interesting. I hope you will all go add it to your subscribed list after we’re done here, but he covers everything from mindfulness and meditation and to compassion and emptiness and Bodhicitta, and so on to artificial intelligence and Bitcoin.

And I mean, you could call it a far reaching podcast and he also has some really excellent guests. His ability to grab big names is exciting. It’ll be enjoyable to everybody. That’s in a nutshell, kind of what I want to say about your podcast, but I want you to say, why did you start this podcast?

We’ll go into, I think I’m going to break it down word by word, like a Skeptic, Path, Enlightenment. I think that might be fun to try that as a format, but just from a personal level, why did you start this podcast?

[00:05:40] Scott Snibbe: So I’ve been a practicing Tibetan Buddhist for twenty-something years, and I got invited to start teaching meditation about 14 years ago.

In teaching those sessions, we go through a series of meditations that are called the Lamrim in Tibetan Buddhism, which is a specific order of the Buddhist topics that is supposed to be very effective in training your mind and bring out all of your best qualities. And so I would lead these classes and I tend to naturally gravitate to certain topics that were kind of better for beginners or people that didn’t believe in any of the super normal or some people might say supernatural aspects of Buddhism. I was on meditating on love and compassion a lot. And I got scolded actually by my friend who was the leading the center. And she said, no, you have to do all the topics. I said, okay, we’ll start doing all of the different topics, which break down into there’s different ways of numbering them, maybe 12 to 14 topics.

Then when I started trying to be more authentic to this sequence for beginners, I found there were some really big barriers because even though we were saying this class was open to everybody, open to beginners, no belief necessary. Sometimes in the very first class, the way you teach it, traditionally, you’d get this triple whammy of belief of believing in past and future lives, believing in karma and believing in other realms.

So for example, the first topic in the sequence is the precious human life or rebirth. And so often in the first sentence you say, oh, we’re beginning of this lifetime, I’ve been reborn in awful places and realms. I’ve mostly been a turtle and a ghost and many other and worse. And finally, I have this due to the power of this invisible force called karma, I have this lucky rebirth where I have these great mental faculties and a great chance to practice the Dharma. 

So I better take advantage of that. That, I’ve found was a little alienating for your average person. There were three big things that we can’t validate with science today. And so over time, I started to make more and more notes of how you could adapt the Lamrim to a completely secular form.

It seemed to me there was not that much you’d have tochange or, or bear off from, in order to get the huge benefit of the meditation, because the type of meditation you do in the Lamrim is substantially analytical meditation. So it’s a meditation where you, you fill your mind with thoughts and feelings and emotions.

And I found that that type of meditation, analytical meditation, was really, really good for at least the kind of people who would come into a city center in America, like highly educated, analytical, intelligent. So with a little bit of tweaks so that people didn’t hit this red line of belief, something they couldn’t validate scientifically, I felt like you could make all the topics beneficial. 

And so I worked on this for about seven years just taking notes. I talked to my teachers, this isn’t just my idea. His Holiness the Dalai Lamas wrote the book Beyond Religion which encourages us to do this, and my teachers were encouraging.

And so two years ago I finally found the time and the motivation all the conditions came together, to launch this idea as a podcast. And so we did an introduction. As in Tibetan Buddhism, everything is very long. So our introduction was 35 episodes or something like that, which introduces people to the sequence.

[00:09:26] Wendy Shinyo Haylett: Yeah, that was one of the things that struck me personally because I, as most of my podcasts listeners know from my previous references, I was a long-term Tibetan practitioner for 20 plus years myself. Even though I pray, I became a lay minister in a sensei in another tradition in Japanese Mahayana tradition.

Tibetan Buddhism is still my, I would call it my home ground. Right. It’s where I go. It feels very comfortable return there. I think when I need to figure something out for myself, I always pull out one of my Tibetan texts to do that. So, what I was struck by was the fact that you were using the Lamrim, which is, which is a concept that I have found that outside of a few schools of Tibetan Buddhism, mainly the Gelug. The Lamrim is not anything anybody even knows about. It’s there, they’ve never really even heard much about it.

And to me it was always the most logical, and you’re right, the way, the way in which a logical way in which would appeal to an average Western or American audience. The other thing is that I was struck by was your focus on analytical meditation, which is also primarily found, I think in the Gelug tradition, I could be wrong and that analytical meditation and I’ve brought it up to my sangha – They’re like, what, what’s that? What are you talking about? Analytical meditation. 

And yet it is I think the most easy and comfortable way to present meditation to again, a Western or an American audience. I mean, analysis that’s the kind of it for our minds.

The way we were brought up is it’s kind of what makes people skeptics too, but we’ll go there later. But that’s what struck me and I think you do that beautifully in your podcast. You were asked to teach meditation but then you created the podcast and I know the name is skeptics, but was that really your focus?

Like that was like is this really what you wanted to do. I mean, why skeptics? Right. And why not? For rationalist or, what I mean, what was the concept? 

[00:12:27] Scott Snibbe: Well first of all, if you are a real true believer of in Buddhism and some of the, like you say, the supernatural or super normal elements of Buddhism, then there are much better teachers than me. 

You can go watch the Dalai Lama a few times a week now, and many other extremely great teachers. So I didn’t think there’s a huge benefit for like another kind of mediocre Tibetan Buddhist teacher in the world. But I actually do think I’m pretty great sort of every day teacher, not even really a teacher, but more of like a teaching assistant, like the person who took the class the semester before, and now can help other people along.

But the reason I use the word skeptics is those are the people, they’re like my friends, I’m surrounded by these people, besides my sangha members in Tibetan Buddhism. If I look at my friends, my colleagues, the people I encounter everyday in life with my wife and family members. I’ve gone through life with these people and some of them for 20, 25 years.

And they kept asking me. I mean, first of all, there’s people who are sincerely looking for ways to live a meaningful, happy life. Bottom line. And then they see my example. And sometimes they say, oh you’re into Buddhism for a lot of people. I’m the only spiritual person they know. A lot of my friends have asked me to marry them and things like that.

So not get married to them, but to officiate in their marriage. So a lot of this I just did for my friends and people like them, because I felt like people have a very rational point of view that, why should I believe anything beyond what science tells me? When I look at people who believe things beyond science, beyond rationality, there’s a lot of awful examples including smashing and playing into the world trade center, because you believe you’re going to be reborn in a heaven with a bunch of virgins, right?

So I think people are totally reasonable in drawing that line really hard and saying, science would say, of course we don’t know all it. We don’t even know most of reality, but to draw that line at what we currently understand about reality and from science and psychological versus and then pull in the wisdom of Buddhism, but grounded in without having to take the recourse of believing something we can’t substantiate right now. 

And I say this as someone without saying what I personally believe in, which may or may we may or may not get to, that’s actually not important, but it’s more for the benefit of people who really can’t believe anything beyond what they’ve rationally learned, from science, from psychology and from textbooks and so on. So that’s the point of skeptic. There’s also cynics, right? That’s a person who actually just rejects things without even thinking about them or considering them.

So that’s not the audience, it’s not a cynic’s path to enlightenment. Right. 

[00:15:32] Wendy Shinyo Haylett: It sounds like a mutually exclusive concept.

[00:15:36] Scott Snibbe: But a rational skeptic. There’s a concept of a rational skeptic, someone who is curious. I think curiosity is really important, but it also applies their critical wisdom and insight. 

That’s what’s so neat about the origins of this path and the intersection, because if you look at the origins of the Mahayana Buddhism in this particular tradition, that goes back to like Nagarjuna and the Nalanda, especially the Nalanda monastery in India. As you look at all the different strands of Buddhism, which I’m not an expert in, but this particular one, as His Holiness the Dalai Lama says, is extremely analytical and critical and invites you to take that the Buddha’s advice to not believe anything on faith alone, but to really test it and analyze it yourself, including using all the modern methods and new information that comes to light.

That is the grounding of Tibetan Buddhism in that Nalanda tradition of critical inquiry even debate, right? Debate is greatly encouraged in this tradition. So I thought it was a nice mixture that Nalanda tradition that I learned through Tibetan Buddhism with modern rational skepticism. 

[00:16:46] Wendy Shinyo Haylett: It is, absolutely, and just as an offside comment is that I practiced too in that tradition. 

[00:17:05] Scott Snibbe: So in terms of the precision of the texts, right? If you want to go and get very precise textual information and the study of the scriptures and the analysis of the scriptures, it’s such an incredible fountain of wisdom.

[00:17:21] Wendy Shinyo Haylett: Yes that it is, that tradition has the, has the. The depth and you could go forever if you, if you had the time and lighten the span of life and all of that I just want to make an offside comment to the all those skeptics out there. You mentioned Nagarjuna, and as we know on Nagarjuna, his name comes from, how he received the wisdom of his teachings, which was accordingly from dragons.

So we could lose a few skeptics right there. But I like to point these things out for, just for like a random interest, you don’t have to, you mean writings and and I studied them a lot. Are, are there, there couldn’t be a skeptic in the world who could poopoo the logic behind Nagarjuna’s writing.

So whether he got them from dragons or not, isn’t this another story, 

[00:18:30] Scott Snibbe: I heard Robert Thurman recently say perhaps the greatest philosopher that ever lived is Nagarjuna, like the precision of his writing on the nature of reality. 

[00:18:42] Wendy Shinyo Haylett: Absolutely. Absolutely and I agree.

I’ll speak for myself. I started as a somewhat of a skeptic and you talked about your friends and family members as skeptics, but did you start as a skeptic as well?  

[00:19:04] Scott Snibbe: Absolutely. Yeah, I was. So my brother became a Tibetan Buddhist before me and he’s a skate punk, a photojournalist, all these like really kind of active, aggressive activities.

And I was pretty nervous when he became a Buddhist, because I have no idea where I got this idea and maybe other people have this misconception too, but I thought that becoming a Buddhist basically meant losing your personality, that you kind of give up yourself. I think that’s all I knew about is you give up yourself and I thought, if you give up yourself, what’s left and it’d be so boring.

So I was kind of worried my brother was going to be really boring, but I watched him for four years and he didn’t become boring. He had all the same humor and creativity. But he was kinder and gentler and are open and he had a very deep practice. So yeah, that’s how I got into Buddhism was he kept sending me books for four years, including by his holiness.

And I’ll tell you something. I did not understand them. I really found Buddhism very hard to understand his dialogue was books. I mean, and it is hard to understand, honestly, I think but finally, when he sent me some Thich Nhat Hanh books and I read the dialogue was autobiography, it started to make a little bit of sense but I remember reading Thich Nhat Hanh and trying then being curious about meditation, try to sit on my bed and nothing happens.

You need a really excellent instructor to learn meditation, but here’s what happened: I invited my brother to go see the Dalai Lama in Los Angeles. I saw the Dalai Lama was coming. So I love my brother. We’re good friends. So I said, I’ll take you up. I’ll buy your plane ticket.

We’ll spend five days together. I’m patient. I was a lot more patient than, than I am now. Actually, I said, I’m patient. I can sit through anything. I’ll sit through these five days of teachings and at worst, we’ll have a great time hanging out in LA together, but I was the skeptic going.

What happened was the minute I saw the dialogue, I just wanted what he was having. I saw his qualities, I’d read his biography. I knew he essentially went through a Holocaust. Like I come from a Jewish background also and I have my relatives died in the Holocaust and concentration camps, but a portion of the reaction of that culture was to get militarized and aggressive and that the Tibetans went through the same thing, had the opposite approach to being so gentle.

The Dalai Lama is like, even if we harm one Chinese soldier than it makes a hundred other enemies. So the almost logical approaches to be kind and patient even, even through like extreme aggression and murder, even. So that blew my mind. And I just thought I want those qualities.

I did not believe in rebirth. I did not believe in past and future lives, karma, any of that, but I just, I felt like. These paths are rare, I’ve I searched around in life and it just seemed like this would work. It worked on the Dalai Lama. I saw how it was working on my brother and other people, and I just committed to studying it, even though I couldn’t accept or even understand most of it, I just committed to studying it.

And I studied pretty deeply for a long time with great teachers, Tibetan teachers and Western teachers. 

[00:22:25] Wendy Shinyo Haylett: That’s a great story. And talk a lot with my podcast and with my sangha I talking about, people get hung up on the word faith that the word faith is, is used in Buddhism as well.

And then, and, and people like people come, I think a lot of people come in my experience from teaching at the center I taught at years ago. And now virtually a lot of people come to Buddhism deeply, spiritually wounded by another tradition and then if there’s any like baggage that kind of comes through with words like faith and, then they sorta like run screaming and the interesting thing that I always say, and your story just exemplified completely is to take up Buddhism or any path of you could call it a path of self-development, but I don’t really like to think of Buddhism as just self-development, I find it cheapens it a little bit in my mind. It’s just the way I look at it. 

Anyway, it’s somebody that exemplifies something to you that you would like to have. There’s this text in the in the three pure land sutras in the larger sutra and there’s this little part of the text and it talks about how when the student saw the Buddha, he said his face was brighter than the sun and lit the room and brighter than the sun. And he immediately vowed that he had to have that. Okay. So I think the parallel is obvious from your story, but that’s the kind of thing that I think happens, to take up the path of Buddhism, you can call it faith if you want, but you have to have a certain level of confidence based on a respect or an admiration. of someone else you admire and, and then you say, well, like you said, I want what they, what they have. I had a very similar experience. I started studying Buddhism in the, in, in the Gelug tradition.

I was a bookstand Buddhist for many years, even into my high school I had Ram Das and Suzuki, I had everybody on my nightstand, but it was just, it was just fascinating. I was also studying Hinduism and Krishna and anything to get me out of my late teen, early 20 angst.

And nothing seemed to click, but then. I went to see the Dalai Lama’s monks we have Ithica is here. It’s right around the corner from us. And there something happened to me, is something clicked.

Something happened and it wasn’t even a person necessarily, although there were monks doing the sand but then something clicked and made a connection to me. And then I started pursuing it more deeply and deeply and deeply. And that’s how I connected, but that was when I started meeting all these people whose faces shown like the sun. 

Right? And then that was it. And you can call it confidence. And I think a lot of us in like any kind of sport, a high school sport, you may have a basketball coach and he means the world to you and, and you want to be like him and, and therefore that’s confidence or it’s faith, if you want to say such a thing.

So there’s a lot of ways, like you said, to translate. More esoteric, supernatural concepts to what we feel and experience and deal with every day. 

[00:27:27] Scott Snibbe: Yeah. Your point about faith is very good and sometimes they say devotion. I really liked the term respect. I think it’s very, it’s a very, very good term that, and it’s something I think we think less and less, our culture has obviously gotten very, very divisive and it’s so much about criticism.

Like everybody deserves your criticism and that’s how the news media works too, which is, and plays a very important function. But sometimes we miss out on what’s really important also is to look at people’s good qualities. And when you meet someone with so many good qualities, like I think for most of us are our friends and the people we admire have more good qualities than they had bad at least as we see them.

And yeah, that’s what’s amazing when you meet a great teacher. So I mean, I’m lucky to have, I don’t there’s I list them out every morning in my mind 17 or more teachers. But Venerable Sangye Khadro or Kathleen McDonald for example, is one of my teachers, and yeah, when you meet a person like that, there’s just, there’s just an incredible sense of presence and grounded-ness and love and attention, that’s one of the greatest aspects of these great Buddhist teachers is they give you a hundred percent attention.

Sometimes if you’re making love or something like, but even then sometimes people are distracted, but it’s, it’s really nice when I mean, when you’re watching Netflix, unfortunately that’s kind of it, right. You give a hundred percent of your attention to Netflix sometimes.

But when a person gives you a hundred percent of their attention, someone once said, that’s the greatest gift someone can give you is their attention. And in some ways that’s, that’s what the teacher does. But yeah, I do think you need, you do need that example, but it doesn’t have to be that extreme.

It can even like Dan Harris is a good example where he’s always very self-deprecating and he’s like this can make you less of an a-hole, he calls it. But then people are very, very inspired by him and the effect that meditation has had on his life.

So, yeah, I think we all need some kind of example, but it can be as simple as a friend who’s benefited. It is amazing when you find a really authentic teacher though.

[00:29:45] Wendy Shinyo Haylett: No, it’s not easy and it’s not, it’s not the way life is going now. I think we’re getting more and more removed from that ability to find a teacher, people like you who live on the west coast, I don’t know where exactly 

[00:30:00] Scott Snibbe: I live in Berkeley. There’s a lot of teachers here. 

[00:30:04] Wendy Shinyo Haylett: Yeah. But most of the most of the people that I know that I’m talking to live nowhere near one, a Dharma center. So it might be more like a community meditation center or something less likely to me.

So, which was one of my reasons for starting my podcast was that sort of thing that sort of missing out kind of thing. Jut having like you say, you don’t consider yourself a teacher, or even a teacher’s assistant. That’s what the word we were inducted as sensei in our tradition and sensei means gone before the one who’s gone before.

So, and, and I consider myself a spiritual friend, it’s just, Hey, this worked for me. Why don’t you try it out? See what happens.

[00:31:00] Scott Snibbe: And also to normalize the discussion like it shouldn’t be so high of a bar to be able to talk to your friends about Buddhism. One of my dreams, because I find this stuff so fascinating and so exciting.

I mean, it’s like as exciting, like more exciting than movies. The movies get quite repetitive you kind of, after a while, it gets very much more exciting than anything. And so I always said I’d like meditation to be something you get together with your friends and do on a Friday night. Like, it’s that interesting and fun.

And I think it can be, but it does need some modernizing and bringing up a modern metaphors.

My teacher Geshe Ngawang Dakpa, my main Tibetan teacher here that I learned so much on the kind of scholarly level from, but he once gave a teaching on attachment which is like craving desire. And he said this feeling when you have a lot of attachment, and then he’s thinking, for example, he says like, “Like when you see a huge hunk of butter!”

[00:32:07] Wendy Shinyo Haylett: That’s what I love about Tibetan Buddhism.

[00:32:08] Scott Snibbe: I was thinking like oh an attractive woman or whatever!

And so that was actually one of the moments when I think the spark for this came because. Like it was incredible, but I felt like I needed to translate in my mind, that wasn’t the thing that just made me completely lose control, a pound of butter.

[00:32:35] Wendy Shinyo Haylett: Well, and to each his own. But I that’s a wonderful example. I mean, I totally get it from a Tibet point of view. Butter is a central thing for them. I mean they put butter on everything. But in our culture, whatever it is, maybe a bag of cheese doodles or something or whatever, but yeah this is really good.

I didn’t ask you if this is a question you would disallow, but I’m going to give it a shot. You see, okay. All these years practice and study and this is a personal question and I’ll do my part to answer my end of it too, just so I don’t leave you hanging out there.

Is there anything you’re still skeptical about? 

[00:33:29] Scott Snibbe: Hmm, that’s a really good question.

There’s actually a really big one that I’ve really recently started to think about. I mean, I don’t want to get too much into my own beliefs, although we could, we could talk about kind of how I think about karma and something, but there is one that really fascinates me lately. And it’s the idea that when you attain enlightenment that you know everything that like, there’s the idea that we learn, at least in our tradition, when we learn about enlightenment, it’s a state where you are omniscient.

Like you can know you can be in everyone’s head at once. You can perceive other people’s feelings and emotions. You can be present to all phenomena in the universe. 

[00:34:14] Wendy Shinyo Haylett: But not omnipotent. 

[00:34:16] Scott Snibbe: Yeah. You don’t have the power to do anything, but you have infinite knowledge and awareness and perception.

So that one actually I’ve come to be very skeptical about, but actually in even a more extreme way. There’s this book I read called the Beginning of Infinity by David Deutch, who’s not religious at all. He’s a physicist, a genius. But in the book he talks about infinity and the ideas of infinity from a scientific perspective and his thesis is that there’s no limit to knowledge.

That knowledge itself is infinite and that science is just replacing wrong theories with less wrong theories, but there is never the right theory that is infinitely that way. And I have to say I’m very, very attracted to this idea. That there that may be, there is no complete attainment of be of completely knowing everything forever, but that there’s always growth.

That there’s always something more to learn or experience. That to me is, and I actually really want to have this conversation with people much more knowledgeable than myself. Like Robert Thurman and so on. Because it’s something I’ve recently formulated after reading those books.

That’s probably the thing that, that I think about a lot day-to-day lately is just the. Because it seems a little bit too much like heaven or something, the way we talk about enlightenment. I mean, it sounds awesome if really you become completely ever-present, and as that, and as the dialogue that says you don’t lose your personality or anything, everybody, right?

It’s not like you just merge with some universal consciousness, but he says, everyone becomes enlightened in their own unique way. Which I think is very encouraging. I think it’s a little bit scary. A lot of people, if you really look, I think you ask yourself, do I want enlightenment or something like enlightenment, what will people say?

No, like, that sounds really weird. I don’t want to be happy all the time. It’s fun to have these ups and downs. Like how could I have ups without downs? So I think that idea that maybe there’s something even beyond enlightenment that the thing we call enlightenment may even just be one step that there may even be further steps/

[00:36:31] Wendy Shinyo Haylett: Yeah, I wouldn’t really call that skeptical, but I would call that more, a curiosity, which is really one, I think a really big point on the path of the study of Buddhism, curiosity.

I know drives me and I know it drives a lot of other practitioners. It drives you in your meditation practice. It drives you in your scholarly practice and it drives you everywhere. So I’m going to cut you some slack on that. I don’t think that’s skeptical. My next question is about, you kinda answered it.

Kind of not completely because for somebody, I think we could, we could expand the definition, what the heck is enlightenment?

[00:37:20] Scott Snibbe: Yeah. And I mean, obviously I don’t have a direct experience, but I mean, I can tell you from know from the way I’ve been taught and also some ways of kind of normalizing it for skeptics. The way I like to think about it and explain it for ordinary non Buddhist people is there’s a beautiful, beautiful underpinning of Buddhism, because so many people are a little bit nervous about Buddhism, because it seems like we talk about suffering and death so much, and think about suffering and death so much 

[00:37:55] Wendy Shinyo Haylett: The bad news of Buddhism.

[00:37:57] Scott Snibbe: And we do. And it’s weird, right? Cause why, why are these Buddhist so happy if they’re thinking about suffering and death all the time, but we are missing out on one of the key aspects of Buddhism is. That we have this conviction in the fundamental goodness of our mind, that at the root of our mind is loving, compassionate, knowing focused, generous patient kind, all of those things.

That’s our natural state. And I think it’s so funny, how that’s they call it Buddha nature. And that’s probably why it’s talked about less because Buddha nature seems like a very religious term, but the idea of the natural goodness of your mind to just use in everyday phrase, I think that’s an extremely powerful idea.

That’s the good news. It’s sort of the opposite of original sin, right? Yeah. It’s the original. So it’s so different. It’s actually really good to see how different Buddhism is actually from other religions and also particular secular points of view.

So this is one of the places is Buddhism is so different from other religions and also from the secular perspective and the psychological perspective, the psychological perspective is all we can, the best we can have is kind of a mixture of bad and good experience qualities. And that’s that Buddhism says your mind is innately kind, pure, generous, and wise.

And it’s so encouraging because the delusions, the aspects of our mind that, that harm us, that aren’t beneficial, like craving, addiction, anger, resentment, those things, even though they seem to dominate our mind sometimes. If you really look at their mind, they say, you’ll see that it’s actually on the surface.

It may be like a really thick crust on the surface that kind of obscures that goodness like the crust on our planet or something, but still it’s there. And that’s the beauty of meditation, is with meditation, especially with deep meditation, you can lose those things and you just see it’s there all the time.

It’s actually there for you to access it anytime you want. If you actually just sit down and go there, you can find that part of yourself. And of course you pop out of it when you pop out of meditation. Like that’s the difference between an enlightenment and not enlightenment, but anyway, this is kind of a long answer to what is enlightenment, but that’s the seed of enlightenment is the idea that your fundamental nature is good.

And also that the mind is changeable. And so through meditation, through study reflection, and then especially meditation gradually you can just let go of those disturbing qualities and they say just you’re good. You are good qualities. Just naturally shine through. So the idea of enlightenment, those good qualities are perfectible. That’s actually possible to become always kind compassionate, loving wise, generous patient, feel connected to others make your life meaningful and find joy in, in everyday experience that. But full stop without, without ever dipping out of it.

Enlightenment from, I think, a more kind of colloquial perspective. And then there are these like super normal aspects of enlightenment they talk about, but I don’t think that’s necessarily necessary. It’s enough to say that you could be happy, kind, wise all the time without saying you could read everyone’s mind and, and like go someplace just by thinking about it.

I’m not sure those other parts are very important to the modern mind. 

[00:41:34] Wendy Shinyo Haylett: No. And just like you said, it’s enough to think that we our obscurations are gone, these kleshas are gone, we don’t have these poisons anymore, or we’re not hanging on to them.

I’ve also been taught that they’re always there and even if someone is enlightened they can be aware of them, but they’re not living in them. And that’s sort of the nature of how I was taught. But the interesting thing I think is, like you said we don’t have to go to the supernatural places to understand what enlightenment may be.

And this is just my belief, and all ignorance is mine here is, is we get glimpses of enlightenment. Like you say, when you meditate, you can get glimpses of how that might feel. By being in that state where you’re in touch with your pure mind. Because I don’t think it’s impossible to be in touch with your pure mind.

You are aware of it in meditation, but the one thing that I find that a lot of people and talking to people that they get, I’m going to use the word irritated, about this sounds also wonderful and warm and happy and, and, and just sit down and meditate and you’re going to get the glimpse of the nature of the pure nature of your mind and blah, blah, blah.

And it doesn’t come without a little work. This is going to lead me to another sort of long question for you to think about.

[00:43:31] Scott Snibbe: Before that though. I wouldn’t mind following up on what you’re saying, because that one more thing about enlightenment. Cause I’ve heard his holiness, the Dalai Lama say this.

Is the power of ideals, right? Because you can look at an enlightenment as an ideal, right. Then enlightenment is the ideal that you could perfect yourself. So, because I heard people ask the Dalai Lama this same question sometimes, and he compared it to world peace. He said, he said, well, will you have the war?

Many of you, in fact, maybe almost everyone in this hall today would believe in the ideal of world peace, but do any of you really think it’s possible to achieve world peace? Raise your hand if it’s possible. Nobody. Right. So why do you believe in that? And he says, the reason you believe in an idea like world peace is because if you have that ideal as a driving principle of your life, then you are going to get as far as possible as you can, towards that ideal.

Even if the end of the line isn’t possible. Whereas, if you have a much smaller goal for your life, you won’t get as far. So that is one reason to have the idea, even if you don’t necessarily believe in an enlightenment, just the believing in the ideal of enlightenment, like pointing your life at a vector towards that ideal that I want to become the most loving, compassionate, kind, wise connected person I could possibly be.

And so that’s my goal and I’ll get as far as I can towards it. 

[00:44:56] Wendy Shinyo Haylett: Well yeah. That’s like the bodhisattva ideal. The wish for enlightenment for all beings, there my goal is a bodhisattva. If you’ve taken the bodhisattva vows I’ll bring on all people to enlightenment all beings to enlightenment And everybody’s always says, well, that’s it, come on, do that.

And, and, and then started there’s a little internal Buddhist joke about that. That of course is impossible. from our perspective, it is impossible. And then when you study the present Paramita sutras, especially the Diamond Sutra, it says when you bring all beings to enlightenment, and once you get there, you find out that there are no beings.

Well, the concept here is that your mind has been purified to the point that you don’t see them as separate beings. And so therefore you have just brought all beings to enlightenment. So ideals are important. 

And I like the Dalai Lama’s attitude there because you, you do need to strive for something it’s so easy to be a cynic and not a skeptic, especially in today’s world. I give anybody a lot of credit to stay, not cynical with the way things are going right now, but there is also the reason to practice more and, or to start on a path of an ideal. But yeah, I love what you just said there.

[00:46:42] Wendy Shinyo Haylett: Do you think there are any other paths other than Buddhism that can bring, okay, the lead on this is Robert Wright when he says is that Buddhism is true?

[00:47:11] Scott Snibbe: Well, okay. So I want to let me answer that question in a couple of different ways. So a quote I recently heard in an interview I gave to Geshe Tenzin Namdak, the resident teacher at the Jamyang Center in London,  I was asking him about secular forms of Buddhism.

And he said, Buddhism isn’t meant to make more Buddhists, but to generate happy minds. There’s also another great quote by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche who says, if you still define yourself as a Buddhist, you’re not yet a Buddha. So yeah. He wrote a book about what makes you not a Buddhist.

So I just love that. There are very few traditions that kind of negate themselves and say this is just a path. Like if you still think you’re a Buddhist, you’re definitely not a Buddha. So and obviously, what, from the Buddhist perspective, you’d say the Buddhist manifest themselves as saints and, and so on.

The word’s not important. Like it’s, it’s a way of seeing reality and seeing other people. So if you look at the, the behavior and the activities of certain other people in life, in history, like on the Gandhi Martin Luther King Jr. And the founders of doctors without borders and my, my brother’s wife, like all kinds of people who just manifest great qualities and, and they’re not Buddhist, I often say like the most Buddhist people, I know aren’t Buddhist, right. They just demonstrate those qualities. 

So I absolutely think every spiritual tradition you’ll find people who, we would probably say from a Buddhist perspective or a bodhisattva, or maybe even an enlightened being a, certainly a person who is living a happy, meaningful, effective life.

And so I think all spiritual traditions offer that there’s a great book of the world’s religions. The famous textbook where whenever you, when you study religious studies but in there it talks about all the best qualities of every religion is a really nice book. It’s not a, it’s not a kind of popular point of view right now, even with myself, I actually tend to look a lot of the drawbacks of religions.

There’s a lot of negative aspects, but if you really look at the effect, if you look at individual practitioners are in our current Pope, I think it’s a great example of very compassionate, effective person in the world. Yeah. There’s many, many other paths that have the same effect on your mind. I think but there are differences.

There are very specific differences, especially in the view of reality and God, you know, of course there’s no, there’s no God in Buddhism. and the way the, the view of the interdependent nature, reality and emptiness is very much unique to the Buddhist view that it doesn’t really exist in most other traditions.

So the way I understand 

[00:50:16] Wendy Shinyo Haylett: Yeah I’ll interrupt. I like to always interrupt when someone says there’s no God in Buddhism. Cause it can cause people some great distress because there’s a lot of people who believed God believe in God and come to Buddhism and practice Buddhism. And, and I think that’s perfectly fine.

And what they’re doing is practicing Dharma and they’re really there, there was never Buddhism to begin with. There’s Dharma and the practice of the Dharma, the teachings of the Buddha. And if you go back to the original teachings of the Buddha, he never said there was no God.

He said he refused to answer the question because it was not expeditious. 

[00:50:58] Scott Snibbe: I think that’s very, I think that’s very, very wise answer actually. Some of the teachers, I really, really respect. They like directly equate the experience of God for Christian and for other religions, with specific experiences we have in Buddhism, like they are identical, they’re just words for the same thing.

So, so yeah, I apologize for that. 

[00:51:24] Wendy Shinyo Haylett: I didn’t want to, I didn’t, I’m not jumping on you. I just, I’m thinking of the audience and I’m thinking of your audience might be a little different than my audience. And my audiences is a smattering of people all across and some are skeptics, some aren’t skeptics and, and some have had like I said, spiritual wounds, but they still have a deep sense of wanting to believe something.

One of the first questions I got and teaching a class on Buddhism. Was that very question, can I be a Buddhist and still believe in God? And I said, well, of course.

[00:52:06] Scott Snibbe: Yeah. At one, if you’re in Vajrayana Buddhism and the Tibetan type of Buddhism, like it’s effectively, it’s like believing in God’s the way you look at all these deities.

I mean, they’re called deities and they’re called deities. So you pretty much do believe in, in various types of like God’s. 

[00:52:24] Wendy Shinyo Haylett: I think the Buddha was the Supreme teacher. He never, he, he answered that question perfectly. It was, it really wasn’t relevant.

Now I remembered the thing. I was going to talk to you about. Yay. For me remembering anything. We talked about meditation. I’m aware of the pure nature of mind. I’m going to sit and meditate in, and then I’m going to be aware of the pure nature of mind.

And of course that’s, it does take some work. and one of the things that I worry so much about, and I would like to kind of kick this around with you is I know you talk about mindfulness, and on your on your podcast. I know there’s the books on mindfulness and I’ve been worried about this even prior to the book came out of mindfulness, is that mindfulness has been coming for the, and I, I’m not trying to be political here, that the capitalist consumer society as a development technique to make their workers more productive and that this and that.

And actually there’s so many people I run into who think Buddhism, they think that there’s this mindfulness thing. And then they think that Buddhism is this mindfulness thing and all this other stuff, the riches of Buddhism, are just gone because ubiquitous of this of mindfulness has just dissipated and dissolved anything that I think is real, true and important about Buddhism. What are your thoughts? 

[00:54:44] Scott Snibbe: Well, we could talk for a very long time about this and obviously it’s puzzled me a little bit because Tibetan Buddhism is very, very precise. So the word mindfulness is a very specific thing that kind of fits together with a hundred other things.

And it’s not, “not forgetting” in our tradition, mindfulness, the way it’s translated is not forgetting. And it’s the ability of your mind to just stay with the object. Right? So it’s a very important aspect of meditation, but it’s not necessarily virtuous on its own because, and this is something really important is that meditation isn’t necessarily going to make you a better person.

Like you have to have a certain motivation with your meditation. So the example I often use, I like to make things kind of funny is if you’ve ever seen the Empire Strikes Back is my favorite Star Wars movie. Darth Vader is meditating throughout that whole movie. Like whenever he’s not like killing somebody he’s meditating and that makes him better at killing people.

But the thing is, it’s not just fiction, right? The US military, they use meditation for some good things, actually treating PTSD. They also use mindfulness to train soldiers so that they will pull the trigger and not be shaking and freaking out about killing another person. They train them with the specific mindfulness practices to kill them.

So it’s really important to realize that mindfulness on its own, it won’t lead you to a virtuous state of mind. Like it could lead you anywhere because it teaches you how to focus. Of course there is extremely, I think the people that teach mindfulness don’t, they mean it to be beneficial. And the Buddha did teach this four foundations of mindfulness.

It is also a specific practice of meditation and a very, very beautiful practice. So at its best, the mindfulness is becoming aware of everything you do so that you stop acting automatically. So that’s very, very powerful. Right? You become aware, you also come into the present.

So you’re, you’re not worrying about the past. You’re not planning for the future. So these are the, the benefits of like a healthy mindfulness. But yeah, I’m very, very concerned. It’s actually a big reason why I started the podcast was just to put another voice out there about the bigger world of Buddhism and other forms of meditation and analytical meditation and the importance of your motivation and a vector and a structured way of thinking that, because to put it more simply, you could say mindfulness could help you focus your mind, but then you have to decide where to steer it.

And then that’s the benefit of the analytical meditation is that once you have some self-awareness and some ability to focus and be in the present, that’s great, but it’s actually not enough to develop yourself as a human being. Then you have to decide, I want to steer myself towards kindness, love, generosity, wisdom, patience, because you can use mindfulness just as a therapy, which is fine actually.

So people will use it to deal with sleepiness or to deal with a lack of focus. Or as you said, to be more focused at work. And I saw that in myself too, actually, as I was meditating that sometimes I would use my meditation practice more as a kind of crutch so that I could deal with a lot of the annoying things and things I didn’t like, or even ethical things I disagreed with to push it down and just like compartmentalize the meditation, then go be focused and work hard at my job.

And I think that is not the point. So I think yes, meditation does work as a therapy. it’ll help with sleeplessness, anxiety, but that’s like 1% of the benefit of the benefit meditation because the point of meditation is to bring out your best qualities and to make your life meaningful and make every moment joyful, which may sound cheesy to some people, but it is possible. I see it in my teachers and I, and I feel to myself a lot of the time very much because of the meditation practice. 

[00:58:51] Wendy Shinyo Haylett: Absolutely. Absolutely. And , and that’s what, I guess what, that’s, what I get at what I’m getting at when I say that is like there it’s [00:59:00] yes.

The Buddha taught the four foundations of mindfulness and yes, we, we teach about mindfulness and, and, and being being concentrated , more concentrated, more focused. but at the same time is like if we don’t have intention, right, or a certain attitude that precedes it. And then that’s why one of my things that I harp on the most is, it’s like following someone or some path that gives you that provides you with the, the motivation or the intention or, the proper alignment, like you said, steering towards the vector, right? The proper alignment to use all these tools. I mean, there is, ton of tools in, in the Buddhist toolbox, some can be used, like we talked about well, and some can be used improperly. The key is intention, right? It’s, that’s the old thing, if all you have is a hammer, everything’s a nail. And if you, you need to focus on what is it I’m trying to do there’s this , this this trend within professional development about, what is your why? It was one of my earliest podcast episodes, because I think it’s so important. A lot of people may want to be Buddhist study. We need to really investigate, analyze, which you may not all have the tools to do yet, but what is, what is your, why, why do you want to do it?

What, what is your why? And it’s your why, it’s having the proper intention and the proper attitude that, that, that will guide you in the right direction. And. Not to sound all, wooey zooey supernatural, but in, from my experience it’s having, that will align you with the teachers you need, whether they be your cousin or the person down the street, or an actual Buddhist teacher.

I really think that it’s happened in my life and, and I’ve taken notice. You can call it supernatural or you can call it just, well gee, if I’m focused so much on this, then, then I’m seeing it. It’s sort of like, well, gee, I just got a new Mazda and I’ve never seen that kind of Mazda before, but once you get it, then you see a million of those Mazdas on the road.

Right. It’s like, so it could just be that and not supernatural at all. It just could be if my mindset on that. 

[01:02:18] Scott Snibbe: Yeah. I mean, in the Mahayana in particular, the motivation is so critical. And I mean, in one sense, it’s like 30 seconds at the beginning of your meditation session is what could transform it from being something neutral or even harmful to something beneficial.

Why am I meditating? I meditate and bring out my best qualities to be the best. father, daughter, mother, son, coworker colleague brother, sister to everybody, stranger, to everyone I encounter like, with that coloring of your mind, then the meditation session, then everything is colored with that, that motivation.

And it’s wonderful because this is kind of a shortcut for doing anything. it’s nice because in Buddhist centers and stuff, you’ll often begin any meeting. And even if you work in the meeting, you start with 30 second motivation, like, okay, why are we having this meeting to benefit other people to do good with our center?

And it’s easy to forget that. And just to dive into work, work, work, work, work. And so I’ve found it’s a really good cheat for various types of activity in life. Like before I used to give a lot of talks while I still do sometimes outside of Buddhism in my regular career. And once I discovered Buddhism, I found it was an easier way to prepare for a talk then, because there’s so much ego involved in like giving a lecture or something like that.

And I, before I would kind of be worried and look over my notes and thinking about it. But I realized the problem was that it was about me. I was worried about my reputation, how I would come off. And then once I got into Buddhism, I said, oh, that’s so much easier to prepare for the talk because you just sit, especially as you’re waiting to do the talk, you think, oh, may this talk be a benefit to people?

That’s the whole reason for doing it. I hope this will be of benefit to people. I mean, you of course still may need to do some other preparation, but especially right before, like the instant before you do it, to think that and then also it is this antidote to things like anxiety. But to think of that only as an antidote to being anxious on stage is so silly.

That’s like one thousandth of the benefit. The real benefit actually makes what you’re doing more beneficial. 

[01:04:26] Wendy Shinyo Haylett: And this is the proof in the pudding of what we know about Buddhist teachings is that, as like in the Bodhisattva trainings, all causes of suffering is thinking about what I want and all causes of happiness is thinking about what else someone else wants.

And I’ve noticed is, not that I always do this and not that I don’t have profound major ego moments, but is when I do set my intentions that my attitude. The ego thing really kind of does go away. It sorta fades backwards. And then everything seems so effortless.

I remember the first few podcasts I did it was very nerve wracking. I hadn’t done it before. I had all these scripts and have blah, blah, blah. And it was all about my writing and, and I remember my brother asking, who I would call him a rationalist cynical if you will.

Cause he thought it would be a good thing for me, but he, I remember he said, how in the world are you going to come up with all those subjects? And I said, yeah, I don’t know. Let’s just see what happens. And it’s like, when you set your intention, like when I, and then once I, I gave my podcasts sort of a way kind of like an offering when I gave my podcast up as an offering, sort of like Tonglen or something when I gave it as an offering it was never became a sweat.

Really. It never became like a job to do. And, as you now know, when I have a guest. I don’t prepare questions. I don’t, I just said let’s talk because I figure if I have a guest, they’re going to be able to talk about the same things I’m going to be when we have the right intention. So yeah, I think your point is so well taken about that.

Is that it, it You can’t help it go in the right direction. Right. If your intention is that way pure. 

[01:06:47] Scott Snibbe: Yeah. Yeah. And it’s outside of Buddhism TOO, anyone who’s effective at anything in life they, they set that intent they’re committed and usually with a positive motivation, usually most people, they want to do good in the world.

Right? Like there’s not really, even the people we see doing evil in the world. Most of them think they’re doing good. Most of them are super committed and they think what they’re doing is the best thing in the world for the planet and for civilization. So we’re all trying, it’s just, we have different opinions about what.

[01:07:21] Wendy Shinyo Haylett: Exactly. Yeah, it’s so true though. People who we look out at and who caused us anger or fear or whatever in this divisive world of ours and then if we remember to acknowledge the fact that they really believed that this is a good thing, it does change how you reflect on them.

I’m gonna ask one more question, because I think we’re getting too close to the hour. and I don’t want to take any more of your time, but I love this. What do you think is the most important thing we as podcasters Buddhist podcasters have to offer?

I mean, I know you have your niche. And I have my niche, which isn’t too far removed from your niche. Mine’s more every day, yours is more the skeptical, rational thing. What do you think we have to offer? And what do you think we should be doing more of? And I know I’m putting you on the spot here because I actually just thought of this this morning, myself.

[01:08:40] Scott Snibbe: Oh, that’s a great question. Let me think about it. I think so what I love about podcasts, I actually didn’t seven years ago. I didn’t say I want to start as podcasts actually analyzed different ways. Like, should it be a blog podcast course and so on. What I love about a podcast is that someone’s right in your head. I mean, you really have a very, very deep experience with the person’s ideas who you’re relating to. So I think it’s, and also it’s very personal. You have a specific voice in that person’s voice and personality. So I think because I’ve always was an artist, I’m an artist and I talk a lot.

So I always really liked this idea of respecting people’s time and really offering people a lot. It doesn’t mean it’s going to mean a lot of content, but, but a lot of value. Right really offer people something that’s going to be of benefit. I think being like entertaining and interesting, it’s also really important like I agree using the talents of storytelling and, and emotion to convey stories and finding that right.

Also no avoiding jargon whenever we can. I try really hard for that. It’s not always possible. And, and there’s benefits to jargon too. They do mean precise things, but I think understanding where your audience is coming from and trying to deliver information using ordinary words or at the very least explain them in ordinary words, I think is very powerful.

But it is a nice medium to deliver even kind of meditative about half of our episodes are meditations. Like that was really important to me because we learned that you can study and reflect as much as you want, but meditation is the thing that has the biggest impact on your mind.

You actually really don’t train your mind very much unless you do some meditation. So maybe that’s what I would say, especially for Buddhist podcasts. There’s is just make sure there’s an element of meditation. it doesn’t necessarily even have to begin with a gong or something like that, but you can pull people into a meditative state.

You can go from a discussion into a meditation by the rhythm of your voice and the, and the way that you invite people to think, especially as asking people questions, like think for yourself a time that like, like this question of does am I happier when I’m pursuing my self interest or when I’m benefiting others; that’s an invitation, right?

That’s not an assertion. That’s an invitation. to think for yourself, like right now, people listening to this podcast think for yourself right now, think of one of the the most positive kind of selfish experiences you had of like something coming to you and special experience, winning something essential experience.

And then think of your greatest experience, benefiting others when you really help somebody like and weigh those, which, which one does one seem like it was stronger in some way that it had a more powerful impact that it was a deeper lasting type of happiness than the other.

I think that’s the, the thing with meditation, I think the more and more that we can as Buddhists, the more that we can invite people to questioning for themselves and going through these exercises themselves the better, rather than any kind of assertions.

[01:12:09] Wendy Shinyo Haylett: Yeah. I mean, what you just did was an analytical meditation.

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And, and I don’t do meditation is like, you do like specific, okay. This is a meditation episode, but since it’s focused on every day, I always position a teaching with an everyday lesson, which is getting some buddy to think for themselves. And I think that’s really important because it’s so easy to take these concepts.

And if we can’t, we can’t put it in an everyday thing. And I always use myself as an example, usually a negative example, but I always use myself as an example. and then that helps them kind of situate themselves in gee, I don’t know, how would I respond to that? 

[01:13:00] Scott Snibbe: Yeah.

And the purpose of meditation is to give you these tools when you’re in your everyday life encountering people. Right? So Thich Nhat Hanh is the ultimate master in that, because his books are never really are talking about meditation, and yet they give you these tools that are effectively meditation’s like, so for example, he has in his book Peace is Every Step, it’s this beautiful two paragraph teaching on understanding.

It’s against blame. It’s about not blaming people, but he’s saying when you’re, when you’re facing somebody do your best to understand them. he says you don’t blame the lettuce for wilting. Right, you go and look and see, oh, does it need water, less sun, more sun.

And so like that idea, as you’re faced with challenges in life, like as your face was like your, your wife being angry at you or your boss or some other conflict to try to. Turn on engage, turn on understanding and turn off kind of blame or even analysis and debate, but just understanding what’s going on for that person.

Not for me, what’s going on for them? What do they need, why are they feeling this? And ask them questions or just reflect like, oh, wow, you’re really angry right now. Or you’re really frustrated, upset. Those are the everyday kind of tips that are even more powerful than something on the cushion because you can apply it in everyday life, but typically they say in order to be able to do that you need to develop certain mental qualities on the cushion.

So you have like the mindfulness awareness so you remember to do it in everyday life. 

[01:14:38] Wendy Shinyo Haylett: Absolutely. Absolutely. One last question before we go do you think that, we referred to this a couple of times, the divisiveness in our world. Do you think that this situation in our world, which doesn’t seem to be abating in any kind of way. And I think the global pandemic only makes it worse. do you think that it is more conducive to practice or less conducive to practice? I’m asking this question because I have been trying so hard to be an optimist about all of this.

And that, that if people practiced, it really would be better. And I’m seeing so much cynicism and frustration and I see giving up, escapism compared to what I thought that I saw 20, 30 years ago in the urge to take up a spiritual practice. What are you thoughts about that?

Make me feel better.

[01:15:49] Scott Snibbe: Yeah, I mean, I would not have any kind of absolute statements. If you look at, I mean, the thing is that the, the world might’ve seemed better to us 20 or 30 years ago. I mean, okay. So you and I are both like white people too, by the way, like, this is a good point to bring up that point.

But like, but like the world’s actually a lot better for a more diverse group of people now. So much was hidden and buried. Like the life experience for a black person in America still sucks, but it’s better than it was 30, a little bit better than it was 30 years ago.

And a lot of it is because it’s all out on the surface. Actually, we are seeing a lot more because of cell phones and because of political activism and just the difference in the way where we’re looking at reality. So it looks a lot worse. They say this about your Buddhist practice is that it actually can kind of seem like you’re getting worse, but you’re not, you’re just more aware.

So I actually do think overall things actually are getting, and there’s certain scientific sources too. I don’t even want people to get mad, like Steven Pinker wrote this great book called the Better Angels of our Nature, and there are good reasons to be critical of him for certain of these biases that he’s exhibited himself, but still the scholarship of his book is excellent.

And it’s about how the world has materially gotten better for people that there’s less violence. there’s more understanding there’s more political empowerment. There is a little bit less racism, believe it or not. And again, this is not something to be proud of because it’s still really bad, but a little bit less a little bit less. So I think, I actually think it’s just that things are more, it’s nice that they’re getting attention because 30 years ago. Right. And I hate to say it really graphically, but yeah, black people were getting shot at the roadside and it was not news. It didn’t even make any headline anywhere.

So, I mean, it’s, it’s sort of a sad progress that now that at least makes news and it, but it’s still happening, but I hope that’s on a vector towards happening less and, and a more enlightened society. So I do think it’s a little bit more awareness. Still we could use more sources of information that were kind of balanced and talked about people’s good qualities and how we can bring out our own best qualities and all the incredible things that happen in the world.

Somehow our media is a bit is biased towards negativity for many good reasons. Like the media is kind of like a branch of the government that keeps it in check. So it’s like constant criticism and it’s really good on a certain level. but we need other sources and I think each of us has to choose for ourselves.

I love the New York times, I actually read it, but it’s quite a negative view on reality for the most part. And, I have to balance out my mind or I have to change, look at change the way I look at those when I read those articles to add to it, that compassion of, as I’m reading about even like a political leader, I hate thinking, oh they think they’re trying to do well.

And they’re also, they may be kind of miserable in their life and so on. And I wish they would be happy. I actually wish they would be happy and relaxed because they’d probably stop doing all these awful things to everybody else. Right. So that’s, you don’t get that in a New York times article, they don’t say like, oh may Donald Trump have happiness and its causes, they’re, they’re very, very critical or Joe Biden.

But I think that putting that spin. I read this beautiful interview with Richard Gere that’s actually an old interview with him. And he said that’s what really transformed his life. When he started to take every person he was faced with face to face and, and on TV too, and just say, I want you to be happy.

I wish you to be happy. Like how does that change your mind and how you relate to every person is if you’re looking through a screen or in real life. If you have that motivation, I want this person to be happy, even if they’re an enemy, even if I didn’t vote for them, I want them to be happy.

And what is that path towards happening? So it doesn’t mean I don’t fight tooth and nail against everything that they are doing that I don’t believe in, but still to believe in their fundamental humanity. I do think that is a little bit what we’re missing more today than 30 years ago. I do think there was a little more of that belief of everyone’s again, not necessarily people who are bad bias against them, but on the surface there was like, a politeness that is missing.

And it was not, it was a little bit fake again, because of all the different racial and ethnic and gender groups that weren’t benefiting from that politeness. but I think we could use a little bit more politeness, kindness, generosity. 

[01:20:47] Wendy Shinyo Haylett: It was a little bit fake, but in doing the practice, in doing Tonglen, which is giving and taking, it’s like doing what you say, wishing everybody to be happy or just Metta practices, wishing everybody to be happy.

And then Tonglen is taking people’s suffering and giving them happiness as an offering. But the thing is even if it was fake, 30 40, 50 years ago, or when I was a kid in the fifties and sixties the, Leave it to Beaver lifestyle it’s like, maybe it was fake, but if you fake it enough, it becomes kind of real after a while.

So yeah, I think a little more politeness. And if you do try to see which people to be happy, I do think it makes a big difference in, in my experience. So that was a wonderful way to answer my last question. And do you have something else you’d like to say Scott? 

[01:21:48] Scott Snibbe: Oh, no, but, I think also to respect the people that are, that are quite vociferous too, like I think, especially in today’s culture to respect strong voices and people advocating for change in seemingly aggressive ways I think that’s also really, really important. It’s nice to touch on this topic because I think it’s actually one of the bigger issues in Buddhism is even looking at biases within Buddhism, which is a little bit for, has firstly been more for kind of wealthy people and white people traditionally.

So that’s always, can’t get into that as our last topic here. It’s too big, but probably with another guest. 

[01:22:29] Wendy Shinyo Haylett: Maybe another time, but yeah, Definitely it is a huge topic and I think it’s only scratching the surface even today in that area. You can’t even go to retreats unless you have thousands of dollars, right?

I mean, so that pretty much eliminates the vast majority of the population. 

[01:22:53] Scott Snibbe: To end on a really positive note, I think just, just the benefits of these types of thought patterns and meditation practices, it’s just extraordinary. And I think that that invitation to people to, to try them with, with some skepticism, some combination of skepticism and openness, I think I’ve heard that said like Buddhism is more an invitation than anything else.

So I think looking into that, that invitation as, as the kind of last words in the interview to look at these ways of thinking and meditate again, as an invitation for yourself to try out because you’re willing to go see the Avengers or like an awful movie about a serial killer, right?

You’re willing to go watch a two hour movie about a serial killer. So why not spend two hours studying Buddhism or meditating or so on and treat it as a fiction, treat it just like a movie. Say it’s all fake, it’s all made up, but it has an effect on your mind watching a movie, it affects your mind for the rest of your life.

It creates neural pathways and certain beliefs and ways of seeing things. So see how this movie plays out in your mind, even treated as a fiction, but treat it seriously and pay attention to it and see the effect it has on your mind afterwards. 

[01:24:07] Wendy Shinyo Haylett: That’s a wonderful, wonderful way to leave this. and, and I invite all my listeners who have never heard of Scott Snibbe.

Like I never heard of Scott Snibbe and who hadn’t run across the podcast as Skeptics Path to Enlightenment you now see how he can teach you now see his way of thinking, which is a wonderful way. And he has really great guests on. And so I invite you all to, to, to run to your app right now and hit subscribe.

I’m sure you’ll like it. And if you don’t talk to him, not to me. So Scott, thank you so much for spending some time with us today. And gee, maybe we can do it again because I do love talking to you. So thanks again. 

[01:24:59] Scott Snibbe: Oh, this was so much fun. Thank you so much. You’re a really fantastic person to speak with.


Written and hosted by Scott Snibbe
Produced by Tara Anderson
Audio mastering by Christian Parry and Chris Boulton
Theme music by Bradley Parsons of Train Sound Studio



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