Interview with Joel Lesko (Tears of the Buddha: Spirituality & Emotion)

Tears of the Buddha: Spirituality & Emotions explores the spiritual path through the lens of emotion. Director Joel Lesko interviews modern Buddhistic teachers to find out how their teachings apply in daily life – are emotions an impediment to spiritual growth? What about so-called unspiritual emotions like anger and hate? Do emotions trap a seeker in the personal self?

Tears is a serious look at an area of life that is often confusing and problematic for people in spiritual practices. Rather than another documentary about a teacher’s enlightenment or awakening, Tears of the Buddha questions age-old teachings about emotions and leads to an important conversation about individual selfhood – is it real or is it an illusion? Lesko shares his own experiences and interviews leading teachers including Gangaji, Eli-Jaxon-Bear, Jeff Foster, Daniel Barron, and others.
View the trailer HERE

Joel Lesko is a long-time meditator and a filmmaker. He set out in this film, Tears of the Buddha: Spiritual and Emotions, to find out what modern Buddhistic, or Advaita, non-dual oriented teachers teach – about spirituality, and specifically about how to orient towards one’s inner emotional life on the spiritual path.

Listen to the radiotalk below.


0:00 – 3:15 Ashland, Oregon. Tears of the Buddha introduced. Some spiritual autobiography leading up making of Tears of the Buddha. Importance of paying attention to nondual teachings in relation to how daily life is lived.

3:15 – 5:09 The making of Tears of the Buddha. Does the filmmaker Joel disappear into the self-inquirer in the making of this film?

5:09 – 10:04 How Joel got into filmmaking and how his goals and purpose have changed toward his own investigation. The two major challenges in the making the film.

10:05 – 12:43 What Joel learned about himself from making Tears of the Buddha. What teachers are really saying regarding emotions and how it bears on your life.

12:43 – 14:15 Redefining of enlightenment in terms of embodiment. Karl Renz. Gratitude to the teachers interviewed.

14:15 – 17:28 The scripted versus the personal side of teachers exposed. The sealed-off character of most teachers he interviewed. Gangaji.

17:28 – 19:34 Some people’s enlightenment discounts the personal, Joel says. A new public conversation on spirituality and emotion.

19:34 – 21:03 The one teacher who said emotions, rather than consciousness, are intrinsic to life. Daniel Barron. How could enlightenment be redefined?

21:03 – 27:24 Joel’s use of the term “Buddhistic” and the nature of the title Terms of the Buddha. What if the essence of our human life is not consciousness? The gnawing feeling in the heart. The validity of emotions.

27:24 – 29:36 Maybe we’re here to embrace our woundings rather than dismiss or transcend them.

29:36 – 32:32 Getting personal about facing that gnawing. Psychotherapy. Karl Renz’s view on the self and transcendence.

32:32 – 34:04 Nature of teachers as confident. Value of film as a featuring of teachers addressing same questions.

34:04 – 38:43 Joel is asked about what he meant at the end of Tears of the Buddha, as far as what Buddha would teach today and the wholesale transcendence of the person. What if there is something more essential than transcendence of duality? Success as a filmmaker is the raising of questions. The teachers are missing something.

38:43 – 41:51 Is a teacher essential? Questions in that regard. Shadow questions. Looking at emotion rather than transcending. Emotional healing of wounds. Karl Renz and Daniel Barron.

41:51 – 48:29 Tears of the Buddha. Some revelations on making it. Some further comments to enhance the viewing and to clarify the themes.

48:29 – 51:08 Dealing with everyday life. Emotion as just energy moving and what that means for your personal life and looking at the root of what a teacher says regarding emotions.

51:08 – 54:18 Some financial and creative realities on making Tears of the Buddha. Christopher Alexander saying to create something as though it’s a “gift to God.”

54:18 – 58:00 Transcendental Meditation and some more of Joel’s background. The truth of nondual enlightenment and stretching that over daily life as if that’s the whole truth, and problems created. Embracing emotional life.

58:00 – 1:00:11 Our conditioning negativizes certain experiences or could avoid them by asking, “Who is asking about negative emotions?”

1:00:11 – 1:06:46 The inquiry of asking what is most essential. Spiritual conditioning saying that emotions are impediments. Listening deeply to the teachers in the film because they tend to use the same words. Staying open. Asking “What if” questions.

1:06:46 – 1:09:36 Teachers conditioning their students. Joel’s experience with emotions while studying TM. The split between feeling what you feel and being conditioned to seal off those feelings.

1:09:36 – 1:16:00 Vipassana meditation giving space to emotions and the possibility that this could create a splitting off or a transcendence or a diminishment of experience. Anger. The nature of spirit, heart, and humanity. Depression arising from avoidance of emotion through nondual transcendence.

1:16:00 – 1:20:14 Joel asks about Jerry’s background in publicizing nonduality. The nature of nonduality interviews. Jeff Foster’s view of emotions. Teachers changing. The apparent fixity of older established teachers.

1:20:14 – 1:25:10 Joel’s corporate film work related to education and the workplace. His future film based on Buddhistic questions.

1:25:10 – 1:26:47 Reflections on the interview. The word “Buddhistic” and need to clarify it for people who expect it to be tied to Buddhism.

What Is the Sign of Spiritual Maturity? ~ Dr. Steve McSwain

How do I know when I am advancing on the spiritual path? What is a “sign” of spiritual maturity?

I would answer with a few questions of my own.

Must everyone believe as you believe in order to accepted by you?

Do you insist that what you believe is right and, by implication, suggest that what others believe must be wrong?

When you suggest that you, and other folks like you, “just believe the Bible,” for instance, are you aware that what you are really saying is that you believe your “version” or “interpretation” of the Bible and that equally devoted followers of the Bible frequently interpret the same Bible differently but just as sincerely as you do?

So, can you make room for others? Can you be honest enough to admit that you, and others like you, might just be wrong yourselves?

When you are able to make your “truth” claims with passion and sincerity, but at-one-and-the-same time clothe them with love, humility and room for others to believe and so hold to equally meaningful “truth” claims for them, you, my friend, are, in my own opinion, advancing in the direction of spiritual maturity — true enlightenment. Or, if you prefer, simply human maturity.

It is time that we live in a world of mutual humility, what I would call Christ-like humility –what others might describe as a Buddha-like respectfulness. It is time for greater openness, for conversation, for contemplation, for introspection, not only between all religions but between religionists and those who claim no religion whatsoever.

F. Scott Fitzgerald suggested, “The sign of first rate intelligence” — I would say, the sign of first-rate, maturity — “is the capacity to hold two opposing ideas in one’s mind and still be able to function” — I would say, “still be at peace with oneself and respectful toward all others.”

Can you?

Make it your spiritual ambition or, if you’re not a religious person, make it your human ambition, to live beyond arrogance or believing in your beliefs. “Beliefs,” as noted in “Why is God Laughing?,” “are a coverup for insecurity. You only ever believe in the things you do not know.”

When you “know” something, what is there to believe in?

If you are a spiritual person, make it your ambition to know yourself, to know God — this is faith. Do not be content with knowing “about” God — that’s the “belief” stuff, which is just believing in the words you say about God or that someone else might say about God.

No, know God for yourself instead.

“How?” you ask.

Wrong question.

Start from the premise that you know God already.


Because you do.

“What do you mean?” you ask.

If you did not know God already, why would you bother to ask the question?

Give up looking for God, too, for God cannot be found. When you make this discovery, you have experienced what I feel is grace.

Grace is simply the inner realization that God has found you already.

For more on Dr. Steve Mcswain view HERE

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