Prasad: Prasad Kaipa
… I’ve always thought
of only two questions that have mattered to me personally. One is what
is really needed in the world and the second is what’s really
important to me and how these two intersect. It’s always been
a reflective process -- spiraling around these two poles. At a certain
point, clarity arrives. I think in this process where you are looking
inward you also are looking outward, but at a larger scale. I think
I haven’t really been a particularly good practitioner of what
Buckminster Fuller used to advocate, “Start with Universe then
work your way back”. But I think I kept working on it.
So I always think of the world
probably in the next couple of decades, I might work from being Universe
centric. I suspect there are some limitations in being Earth centric.
But nonetheless, it has always [been] how I have been oriented. I have
never been interested in jobs, or institutions but what’s really
needed in the world and things just crystallized for me.
and Practicing Being Present
When did you come alive
in your own life and get to know yourself better [that’s relates
to the practice of being present]?
I had a chance to facilitate
a Leadership & Mastery (L&M) workshop through ‘Innovation
Associates’. It was a really good time for me. I was probably
just about 30 years old. …
I vividly remember one particular
exercise known as the ‘choice exercise’ that Robert (Fritz)
introduced and we participated and that got etched in my mind. One of
those choices – “being an observer”- just made me
think and ponder for a while. It just crystallized in my mind as a choice
from that time on. It became an interesting observer process.
After so many years, I don’t
really think about it, but I really observe myself when I talk. There
is this Peter who is talking and one who is observing. It is kind of
a binocular vision. You have to be in yourself talking, and also have
that awareness of standing to the side of yourself. I think part of
it is not being attached to your self. We all started to kind of disassociate
ourselves from our mind strategies -- like if I do this, this will happen
as opposed to just being present and saying whatever happens is fine.
It is about really supporting our intentions and supporting people who
I learned during that time that
whenever I get really confused or sad or discouraged, I would just make
the choice to be of service to other people and forget about everything
else. So I kind of developed this trust that it was all coming back
to paying attention to what was going on and be clear about my choice
to be of service, and I think it takes care of itself.
Prasad: So let
me see whether I heard you right. You are aware of a special moment
20+ years ago when you chose to become an observer of your own process.
While doing an exercise with Robert [Fritz] and Charlie [Kiefer], you
came to this awareness that you could be a participant and an unattached
observer as well. Is that right?
Prasad: Then you
continued to practice this state of being an observer and consciously
choosing to serve and paying attention to what is emerging in the moment.
So it is not about preparing with a clear intention, but practicing
it repeatedly as well.
One of the interesting
questions that I experimented with is different kinds of preparation.
I asked myself: what types of preparations are helpful and what types
really get in your way of being present when I am in front of people.
I have experimented, several times, in the last 3-4 yrs with PowerPoint
slides. I can’t really say they have ever been helpful.
So, I just go without any preparation
for the group with an open mind. First I do whatever I can to understand
the group. I always memorize everybody’s name so when I see them
I don’t have to look at their name tags and I have some sense
of connection with them as individuals. I try to understand as much
as I can about what is the nature of these people, what they interested
in, what are they concerned about…
Sometimes, if I feel really disconnected,
I’ll even stop early on and ask them what is important to them
and what do they really want to talk about. So that kind of preparation
always seems to be helpful. Sometimes, I will really plan things out
- it’s very situational. One time, I did a presentation for Environmental
Designs for builders and product designers. They wanted me to address
questions on design of an enterprise. I actually went through preparation
for several days and I even took detailed notes on my thoughts though
I did not refer to them later.
It’s very situational - the
content preparation part. Preparing to connect with people is pretty
Prasad: So do
you feel that now your awareness is increasing? Are you meditating lots
more often these days?
Peter: [Over the]
past 10 years or so I have become much more disciplined, I meditate
every morning and evening. For about an hour in the morning and anything
between 20 and 45 minutes in the evening, depending on how I feel. But
surely an hour in the morning or even longer.
Prasad: So how
are you able to manage all this with all your travel, book-writing etc?
Something [has been] building for a long time. The seeds were planted
long ago. I made my first visit to Tassajara Zen country monastery just
before I was at Stanford. There was a lot of recognition there. I knew
immediately that meditation was very important to me and did continue
to meditate but didn’t see a need to be disciplined.
Then it came with the publication
of ‘The Fifth Discipline.’ After 2-3 yrs after its publication,
I could see the popularity, the attention, and that you are put on a
pedestal. That’s when I clearly realized that I wasn’t quite
ready for that. I would get stuck on things; my ego was not well enough
in control and then I actually started looking for a teacher.
For about a year or two, I would
ask people and they would refer me to this therapist or this person
and that was kind of interesting. But nothing ever clicked until I met
this man in China around 1996. Then I started to realize that I just
have to start being more disciplined. I had read a lot of Eastern things
but again in an undisciplined way, just random. But then I started studying
things in a more rigorous way and of course they were connected to my
field of practice. It’s just like how we all have a spiritual
teacher. It’s a combination of study and practice-all in the context
of our service. I think it’s kind of a common feature in varying
degrees to all spiritual traditions that there are these three fundamental
elements – study, practice and serve.
There is a study, … a body
of knowledge that you are studying. But it is meaningless if it’s
not in line with your practice. Whatever is your practice - your meditation
practice, your cultivation practice… basically is that present
state of your mind-body system. And then there is a reason for doing
it all, which is your service - how you are trying to be of use to the
world. That’s when I started becoming more disciplined.
the East: Society, Spirituality and Science
Prasad: What did
you see in China and India that you did not see in the West?
The intellectual sophistication of the philosophical traditions of China
and India is extraordinary. There is no lack of intellect here in the
West. But its service to a much richer concept of development is what
is needed. The next stage of human development is certainly not industrialization,
technology and all that but somehow this next stage is about bringing
back the interior to be in balance to the exterior. I think that has
to come from China or India and maybe to some degree from the indigenous
Another way I’d come to think of it, Prasad, is
that we all know how old the Chinese and Indian cultures are, but they
probably have a more direct connection to their indigenous knowledge.
It’s quite clear to me as I understand Taoism. Lao Tzu always
talked about the ancients going back to I-Ching. This is the first time
you’re trying to see this deep indigenous knowledge starting to
filter its way to major cities, to larger social institutions and the
gradual shift to the modern Chinese ways in last 4000-5000 years. But
there’s a kind of continuous trend [in the East], whereas in the
West we don’t have that.
The indigenous peoples of the Europe are basically completely
eliminated, whereas in the United States, we still have a strong indigenous
population. But then everything else that has been developed [came]
from the immigrants. People who came here had very little productive
interaction with the indigenous population.
I had this conversation with a Japanese man whose name
is Yasuhiko Genku Kimura based in Los Angeles, a Japanese Buddhist monk,
who also is a very serious Chinese scholar. He has a brand new translation
of the Tao. Most of his work is about business. He said his critical
moment of awakening was when he was on a 2-3 year study in India, he
said he just had this powerful realization, that individual enlightenment
would not relieve the suffering of human being today. What is really
needed is collective enlightenment.
I think the third pillar then, apart from science and
spirituality is society. I think it is wonderful that the Dalai Lama
and all these western scientists have had a lot of meetings and some
very good material has come out of that. But I think if we don’t
deal with society, don’t deal with institutions, don’t deal
with economy and big businesses, then it could be counter-productive.
There is a need for science that is more than the curiosity of the scientists
but for the society.
I think science, spirituality and society will be the
new nexus. It’s not the old individual spirituality any more.
It is about collective awakening. And collective awakening is like …
sitting-Zen / working-Zen. Working-Zen is institutions (how business
works, how schools work, how government works) - how collectively we
do our work.