Zen figure offers advice for success
How are you going to live your life?
August Turak, a forceful speaker and the founder of the Self Knowledge Symposium, answered this and other questions before a sell-out crowd Wednesday evening in Griffith Film Theater.
Turak's annual speech, titled "Five Years with a Zen Master," does not gently persuade the audience to reshape their lives but rather "gives you a kick in the pants," said SKS member and Trinity freshman Ann Bonner.
"Zen is about confrontation, hammering egos," Turak said.
Judging by his speech, he practices this method in his life. Turak encouraged his listeners throughout to "live life most effectively." To accomplish any feat, he said, one must first understand oneself. According to Zen philosophy, he explained, the search for self should begin with the fewest axioms and preconceived ideas.
Turak, or "Augie" as SKS members fondly refer to him, presented his lecture in the form of a story-recounting his experiences with Zen Master Richard Rose. Quoting everyone from Plato to Dustin Hoffman to Jim Morrison, Turak attempted to convey the concepts behind Zen and explain his relationship to his mentor Rose.
Turak's journey toward enlightenment began when he was a confused college student at the University of Pittsburgh. It soon escalated into an all-out adventure-an adventure he stumbled through with Rose's guidance. The image Turak constructed of his teacher was that of a short, bald, heavily-built man with a penetrating gaze and a powerful speaking presence.
"What I want you to understand about Rose," Turak said, "is that he was not an amateur or part-time.... He was a man that knew something." This knowledge, Turak explained, emanated from the Zen master.
Some experiences that most affected Turak included the tremendous feelings of energy he felt in Rose's presence, often characterized, he said, by "ringing in my ears, anxiety and tension inside." After an out-of-body experience in a Seattle motel room, he continued, "I found everythingness and nothingness."
Turak urges you "to do each thing as if there's nothing else," Trinity senior Doug Friedlander said, "to make your life into the most exciting adventure rather than living vicariously through a $7-dollar movie or a book."
Although Zen ideals typically emphasize balance and meditation above material goods, Turak's belief that a compelling motivation to work and a highly successful career can be reconciled with these principles. Turak himself is a businessman and earning a lot of money is acceptable, he said, "as long as you don't burn yourself out and you're keeping your integrity."
Sponsored by the Self Knowledge Symposium, this year's speech was also videotaped for The Discovery Channel's upcoming documentary about SKS.