Genpo Roshi Interview

Today I had the honor of interviewing Genpo Roshi, creator of the Big Mind, Big Heart approach to Zen Buddhism. Before I get any further, you need to know that he’ll be in SLC on 19 December, check it out here, make time for this:  Also, it’s worth noting that we had some technical difficulties with the phone line – it’s rough at first, but we get it smoothed out. Just hang in there with the podcast.

Okay. Now, on with the discussion…  Philosopher Ken Wilbur said that Big Mind is “arguably the most important and original discovery in the last two centuries of Buddhism”.  Roshi’s refreshing approach  is revolutionizing not only the teaching of Zen but also spiritual practices within and outside both Eastern and Western traditions.

Here’s where I’m at with my understanding of Genpo Roshi’s Big Mind process… it’s made up of a couple of simple ideas:

A person’s personality / soul / being has many facets. Each of these components or characteristics may be referred to as having a voice.  This can be thought of as being evidenced by the self talk we all engage in.  As you well know, there are many different approaches, attitudes, and tones these inner dialogues take, hence the different voices.

To transcend something, one must fully accept it. One must release judgement of it. One must embrace it fully.

By engaging in a dialogue with each of the voices in a person,  in is able to

  1. acknowledge their existence
  2. honor their existence by engaging in real, intelligent, compassionate conversation with them.

Usually Big Mind is facilitated by someone else, a facilitator, who may call upon the subject’s many voices and engage in dialogues with them, ie, “May I speak to the Voice of Desire?”  “May I speak to The Voice The Damaged Self?”  “May I speak to The Voice Of Big Mind?”  Etc, etc, etc.  The subject then typically responds in the affirmative and speaks to the facilitator coming purely from the space of that voice that was called upon.

Massive healing can occur as one learns to engage in a compassionate way with one’s inner voices.  Transcendence can occur by learning to fully accept them and no longer judge any of them as right or wrong, but parts of a whole.

That’s my understanding of Big Mind, Big Heart.  If I’ve failed to distill it’s essence, I hope Roshi will somehow alert me.

Beyond my interest in his Big Mind process, I was very curious to hear him speak about a concept that, when I heard of it, captured my imagination. It’s the idea that certain beings, upon transcending to God / Buddha consciousness, are presented with a choice.  Said person may simply remain in that bliss, basking in the oneness and glory of complete understanding, indefinitely.


…they may enter into a covenant of sorts, to return to the plane of the common man and serve them, doing all they can to share the light and knowledge they have attained, for the benefit and eventual transcendence of all sentient beings.

There is something cosmically beautiful about this idea. When I first heard of it, the concept resonated deeply with me.  I was honored to have the opportunity to ask this great teacher about the principle of Bodhisattva…

As it turns out, here in the west, we have a great example of the idea of Bodhisattva in our predominant religion.  The legend goes like this:  A spirit being was so advanced, so perfected, that in the pre-mortal realm, it had a desire to condescend to the realm of man, on earth, in 3 crude dimensions, to teach people the way to advance forward. It was labeled spirituality, it was transcribed, translated, packaged, re-packaged, debated over, and eventually coined as Christianity. The notion of Christ being God consescended as man in the flesh, in order to teach and uplift mankind to his level, is Bodhisattva.

Genpo is a self proclaimed Bodhisattva.

Bodhisattva can come in and out of the Bodhisattva state. They can be among the living or the dead. They are often mortals who are deeply aware of their mission on earth to help elevate humanity.

They are among us.


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