Clifford Stevens (Ki-ichi) was born in the United States. His career included stints as a teacher, journalist, PR manager and translator. He has studied Qi Gong, Zen and meditation with Genro Xuan Lou, Laoshi for many years. His meditation-imparted experiences and the Dharma transmission from Genro have qualified him to be a teacher of Zen. He humbly reveals his deep insights and awareness of the spiritual cosmos as he wanders along the pathless path with his Zen Master.
Q&A With Clifford Stevens
How did this project begin? Zen Master Genro Xuan Lou, Laoshi self-published a book in German many years ago, and wanted to share his “insights” with a larger audience. He asked me, his pupil whom he later named to serve as a Zen and meditation teacher, to collaborate with him to do a revised, expanded and updated edition for the English-speaking world.
Tell us some more about your book. A living Master and I, his pupil, have teamed up to offer readers a “new” book based on the age-old pathless path. Find the Seeker! accompanies people on a life-changing inner pilgrimage. It is a travelling companion and guide and a powerful, straight-talking wake-up call holding up a mirror to our worldly existence. It entices readers with a vision of what we really are – which can only be directly experienced – by helping us unfold our true nature. In turn, we can abide in the one Self. In this way, seekers become finders. This enables us to enjoy the bliss and lightness of Being that are inherently ours.
Who will this book appeal to? Find the Seeker! focuses on the spiritual dimension all of us share. For this reason, the guide is for all readers who wish to lead more fulfilling lives, get answers to key existential questions and unfold their true nature. More specifically, it targets people interested in the categories of mind-body-spirit, self-help, personal growth and happiness as well as Eastern religion and Zen. It is for people of all faiths and confessions, whether beginners or longstanding seekers.
Why is this book relevant today? The book is relevant because it addresses the same obstacles faced by people since time immemorial. Just because we are in the year 2018 does not mean that the “spiritual” challenges are different.
Moreover, we are living in a day and age in which people are becoming increasingly skeptical and estranged from what they really are. From a spiritual perspective, many of us are living dysfunctional lives. We often transform the path into being as we really are i.e. our true, Absolute Self into an overly complicated, burdensome task.
Many books and teachings reinforce the fallacy that there are countless “steps” and “goals” to attain before accomplishing this, and so much we have to “learn” before we can “reach” our goal. Instead, we already ARE what we seek. Abiding” in the Self comprises our real mojo. It is ultimately more breathtaking, rewarding and joyful than any other pastime, activity, work or form of recreation on Earth. This is a contrast to our fast-paced, fun-loving, self-staging, technology-oriented society. It is just as relevant today as in the past to “know yourself.”
What makes this book unique? First, it is not a new discovery, concoction or miracle cure. It is based on first-hand experience as well as the tried and tested wisdom of a modern-day Master and enlightened ones throughout the ages. The strength of the book is its focus on the spiritual dimension underlying Existence which all people share. It also picks people up where they are in a compassionate and understandable manner. Second, the book is not a wishy-washy quick fix or feel-good esoteric porridge pandering to those who want a spiritual baby rattle. Instead, it is a book of tough love, asking people to forego their thinking, logic, emotions, ego processes and their past experiences.
The book is in stark contrast to the majority of books which indulge in superficial descriptions or sayings and provide seemingly “precise” instructions, lists of goals or steps to take. Third, the book does not slowly work its way to a conclusion but continually repeats key messages to hammer away at our conventional beliefs. We act as facilitators, hoping the book will fall on fertile ground. Speaking with authority and a sense of urgency, we strive to transform the complicated path of so many seekers into the realization that we already are what we are looking for. Finally, Find the Seeker! aims to help people free themselves from their dependency on intermediaries, gurus and religious institutions, or from the self-delusion of being less than they really are.
What was the hardest part of writing this book? At the very beginning of his famous classic Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu stated that the Tao that can be expressed in words is not the eternally unchanging Tao. It is a challenge to attempt to put in words that which is nameless and cannot be described. Moreover, it is crucial to ensure that one remains faithful to what one IS and not adapt the book to please the audience.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why? There is no “favorite” chapter or part of the book, because all the chapters come together to make a holistic whole. Nevertheless, it was gratifying after several chapters were done to see the book taking shape. This is a book which is designed to unfold its impact and slowly work on readers. In contrast to a novel read in a few sittings, a good spiritual book is like a symphony that one can repeatedly listen to. The challenge is for our readers to immerse themselves in it in the here-now, and allow each page to turn into a revelation or an awakening. By doing such, they will enable the book to point to the Isness and Suchness – even if they do not “comprehend” everything right away.
What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them? To humbly attempt to express what cannot be expressed in words, to tell things straight but to make it all understandable and compassionately pick people up where they are. Perhaps the book will serve as an inspiration to help readers reboot their spiritual search and renew their lives. However, the book should not be overestimated.
This book (and any other) is only capable of giving readers a hint of what awaits them. We tell readers not to simply take our word for it. The work of finding the truth will have to be “done” by them. And this work won’t be “intellectual” in nature, but can only be directly experienced – by turning within. A number of spiritual teachers highly praised the book before its publication. Now we will see how readers react to it.
Tell us a little about yourself and your background. The book has two co-authors. The main person to speak about is Gert Beirer, who was born in Austria in 1945, studied Zen, meditation, Kung-Fu, Qi Gong and acupuncture in Asia. He was given the name Genro (“Origin of Joy”) Xuan Lou, Laoshi (Laoshi = “Spiritual Master”) by Zen Master Tetsuo Kiichi Nagaya Roshi. Genro Xuan Lou, Laoshi was named Zen (Chan) Master by the Abbot and Grand Master Kun Kong at the Lingyin Temple (Shakyamuni Buddhism) in Hangzhou, with whom he studied 11 years, by Abbot and Zen Master Shi Chan Ming in Wuhan, Province Hubei, China, and was also named Shifu or “Spiritual Teacher” in 2009 by Shi Xue Feng, Abbot of the Ding Shan Temple in Germany.
After returning to Europe, Genro spent decades as a therapist and business consultant, and has been heading the Qi Gong Master School in Austria for many years, practicing in accordance with the Wuhan-Yangsheng style. Genro Laoshi has lectured at universities, appeared on TV, held seminars on a variety of spiritual and self-help topics, taught Qi Gong courses and published articles and books on meditation, Zen, motivation and communication, storytelling, body-reading, sexual Kung-Fu, autohypnosis and many more topics.
I was born in the United States and later moved to Europe. My career included stints as a teacher, journalist, PR manager and translator. I have studied Qi Gong, Zen and meditation with Genro Xuan Lou, Laoshi for many years. Genro says that my meditation-imparted experiences and the Dharma transmission from him qualified me to be a teacher of Zen.
What’s your inspiration or who is is your inspiration? So many wise teachers, masters and prophets have walked on the face of the Earth, serving as signposts and facilitators. They inspire us because they have shown that we can in fact make our way down the path, embody the Oneness and realize our true nature. They have attained non-dual consciousness and manifested goodness, love and compassion. I am grateful to have personally met and be taught by several of them. Genro Laoshi can also tell stories about the teachers he encountered. However, it would be misleading to pick out just a few people because our message is a “universal” one. Absolute Being goes beyond all conditions, conventions and confessions. Finally, this book is not really about any of the people we mention (including ourselves). Their importance pales when being compared to the significance of what these people have to teach us.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day? I AM. That is sufficient.
What is your favourite motivational phrase? Favorite quote? There are so many motivational phrases that have come to mind over the years. Let me mention one which has accompanied me for a long time, namely the saying ”Be as you are” by the great Indian teacher Ramana Maharshi. He did not say that we should ”become” as we are but to BE what we are, and that is a key message of this book.
What advice would you give to your younger self? My ”younger self” was once convinced that it was separate and apart from the Oneness, believed in duality and thought it had a life of its own. I cannot change the past, and I am certainly in good company here. Generally speaking, carrying around the heavy backpacks containing our past experiences is only a burden. The focus is on living in the here and now. Some people say it is human to wish that one could change the past, and reflect how things might have been. ”If only I knew what I know now….” But this only takes away from the bliss and joy of the present moment.
What books have most influenced your life? The book contains a list of some books that we recommend. I have often turned to Ramana Maharshi, Eckhart Tolle, Wolfgang Kopp, Thich Nhat Hanh, Joel Goldsmith, various Zen Masters and many other. They can serve as inspiration and as signposts on the path. However, our objective is not to provide people’s minds with more matters for them to ponder, or stimulate them to engage in more mental acrobatics, but to help them unfold what they already are – and thus go beyond books and reading. Ultimately people have to walk the talk i.e. go down the pathless path themselves.