My Latest Interview
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Jacob Zanca of Pepperdine University, and answer some questions regarding a comparative religion study.
1. Was the spiritual journey which you embarked upon as a teenager self-motivated? Or did someone close to you introduce you to the practices of yoga and meditation?
My mother was a huge influence early on. When we were young we learned about meditation, karma and the concept of divinity everywhere — especially the Earth as sacred. The catalyst for becoming a monk was Paramahansa Yogananda’s book, Autobiography of a Yogi.
2. Why did you decide to join a monastery in Hawaii, rather than one closer to where you grew up?
I went to Hawaii in order to live in the jungle, alone and poor. I wanted to give up everything, even the ability to access shelter and food. After living on the island for one month, I realized that the homeless part was easy, and that I would need a real teacher to guide me into mastery of meditation.
Another perspective is, the monastery is far away in order to remain secluded and private. So, it was a win win. I needed the privacy to train, and to remain free of distraction.
3. When you took your new name and committed to monastic life, did you see yourself ever eventually returning to the rest of the world, or was that a decision which you made after some time as a monk?
I thought I was in for life. No, I definitely started the mission as a lifetime goal. To be a philosopher who did nothing but reflect on the infinite complexities of life was my goal. The decision to leave came at year 12, when I learned that I could take my philosopher ability everywhere I went. I no longer needed to live in the jungle to be what and who I wanted to be.
4. Over the entirety of your time studying in Hawaii, what were the most prominent things that your guru taught you? How do you apply those lessons outside of the monastery?
Great question. I wrote an entire book about this question; it’s called Everything is Your Fault and it is sold on Amazon. To give you one main lesson I learned and keep with me, that would be responsibility. I learned that everything that happened to me was my own doing, my fault. And, if everything could be my fault, I could take control over my life and choose what to do with it.
Applying responsibility comes with daily reflection. Each situation comes with a lesson, and if we are paying attention, we can remind ourselves that we are in control and what happens next is up to us.
1. What drew you to the Saivite sect of Hinduism, and, by extension, Lord Shiva, relative to other traditions or deities within the religion?
I’ve always appreciated the source of a teaching. When I learned skateboarding as a kid, I wanted to know where it all started. When I became a drummer in middle school, I learned all about drumming history and who had been around the longest. So, the same is true for when I started to seriously learn yoga. I wanted to know where yoga and meditation came from, where its origins were and who were the first to teach it. Saivite Hindus were the first branch of Hinduism, and they were the first mystics to teach enlightenment to the world.
2. What have your studies taught you about the way to achieve moksha and escape the cycle of reincarnation? Does it primarily entail the avoidance of karmic debt and the accrual of karmic favor through your interactions with others/yourself? Or are there also ritualistic components which must be met in order for the soul to be liberated?
Karma plays a large part in the process of moksha — but it isn’t everything. My guru taught that three goals need to be accomplished before moksha takes effect;
Karma fully resolved
With those three goals in the forefront, the Hindu or seeker on the path, has a roadmap in which to follow. The nuance and detail of karma, ritual, worship and meditation are all wrapped inside those three goals.
But, if you asked me if a soul needs puja or Hindu-specific ritual for liberation, I would say no.
3. Would you agree with the Buddhist notion that existence is, in a broad sense, defined by suffering? If so, what is your recommendation for those seeking happiness? If not, how would you alternatively categorize existence?
Buddhists see everything as suffering; Hindus see perfection in everything. Both are correct since suffering is perfect, and perfection includes everything as being necessary for liberation. For me, yes, I agree with the idea of suffering since that’s such an easy concept to relate to; perfection is not.
For happiness, I recommend a twofold objective:
- Change your perspective on life. If you look at suffering and tie it in with it being your fault, then you can be responsible. Then the power dynamic shifts into your control and your own unhappiness becomes your fault. so, fix it.
- Do not trust in happiness. Try to detach yourself from the concepts that the brain has constructed in order to determine mood. If you are content, and whatever happens is meant to be, then you can flow with life instead of run into wall after wall after wall of resistance. Trust in the fact that if you want happiness, you can have it; if you want sadness, you can have it. Choose wisely.
4. During your advanced training, you studied a broad array of disciplines. Some of which (psychology, military leadership, fitness, etc.) do not appear to fit within the conventional bounds of religious study. Is this a common practice? What value did you glean from these more secular fields of research?
My training was anything but conventional. I do believe that the monastery I trained in is one of the best in the world and contains the world’s finest teachers. For that, I am fortunate and forever grateful. However, truth comes in a variety of packages. My research into various areas of knowledge and wisdom were needed in order to gain a well-rounded understanding of how history viewed the same truth.
I can learn similar teachings from my guru and from Plato, but I benefit from being able to combine the two minds into one whole area of expertise. In this way, I can understand a more complete picture.
I can also say with confidence that my mentors did not know everything, nor did the monastery curriculum teach everything I wanted to know. For those things, I needed more mentors, more books, more resources to climb out of my own intellectual ineptitude to become an elite thinker.
5. Are there any secular philosophers or teachers from other religions whose advice you’ve gained from or incorporated into your own teachings?
Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Musonius Rufus, Miyamoto Musashi, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Theodore Roosevelt, Mahatma Gandhi, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Henry David Thoreau, Oscar Wilde, Jordan Peterson, Seneca, Confucius, John hodgman.
6. Are there any cultural perceptions of Hinduism which you would like to change?
Yes. The Sivalinga is not a phallic symbol; it is the most elegant representation of God in a formless image.
Most Hindus are not vegetarian.