Todd Robinson is a Master of Awareness Meditation with more than thirty years experience. He’s best known for discovering how the mind behaves during awareness meditation, and for presenting a pure meditative experience without the religious and cultural baggage it has obtained over the years.
Mr. Robinson’s deep understanding of the meditation process is highlighted by the accelerated meditation techniques he teaches, and the ongoing research and development into new ways this knowledge can be used to enhance the quality of day to day life.
Todd began meditating in the mid 1980s practicing transcendental and other meditations before enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1989.
Because the Marine Corps had trouble identifying and treating soldiers with PTSD during the 1990’s, Todd went AWOL to deal with the severe symptoms he developed while serving as a Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Defense Specialist during the Gulf War.
While absent from the Marine Corps, Todd moved to Thailand and eventually ordained as Thai Forrest Tradition Buddhist Monk in Maha Sarakham, Thailand. As his PTSD symptoms declined and his meditation proficiency rose, he was taken to several of the foremost meditation masters in Thailand for additional training.
When he was no longer experiencing the symptoms of PTSD, he returned to the Marine Corps and become the first Buddhist Monk to serve within any of the U.S. Armed Service Chaplain Corps. While serving with the U.S. Navy Chaplains in Okinawa, Japan, he finished his contract with the US Marine Corps and studied Rinzai Zen in his spare time.
After fulfilling his military contract, Todd Robinson returned to the U.S. and helped form the Vipassana Towers Meditation Center in Denver, CO. before moving to Illinois and disrobing.
In his own words,
“I was living in Rayong, Thailand, teaching English to customs officers when my friend , the Chief of Customs in Rayong, Thailand, introduced me to a monk who was passing through the area. To make an extremely long story short, a couple of months later I was an ordained Buddhist Monk living in a Temple across the country.
My teacher, the Venerable Kompai Kompilo, wasn’t known as a great meditation teacher, but he did his best to point me in the right direction. He and the other monks built me a three sided meditation hut out back, which turned out to be about 25 feet away from the cremation pyre, putting me face to face with my imminent death whenever someone in the surrounding village passed away. But above all else, my teacher most certainly excelled in pushing all my buttons, at just the right time. He was expertly skilled at setting me up, then laughing at my foolishly egotistical behaviors. He seemed to thoroughly enjoy my “hell bent on enlightenment” style which played right into his hands.
Under Venerable Kompilo’s guidance I had a series of break throughs, which included the ability to see my thoughts as they formed. But I was unable to get past whatever was preventing progress during my lengthy meditation sessions. I would emerge from deep meditation convinced that there was nothing left to let-go of, yet I couldn’t make further progress. Then it happened…one morning I was up early, sweeping the floor of the open air temple. All of a sudden, I just “knew” that my meditation blockage was from trying so hard.
I suppose if I were a better Buddhist, I would have been focusing on “the middle way” and realized it much earlier. Instead, I remembered Newton’s third law of motion, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” I was trying to force the matter, so it was pushing back with the same force. I was engulfed by the feeling of utter hopeless…trying to become enlightened was preventing it from ever happening, and not trying to become enlightened certainly wasn’t going to work. In my utter despair, I no longer cared one way or the other…. and the world fell away.
I haven’t really discussed my awakening (aka enlightenment) with too many people. First there is that “you have to be one to know one” issue, and telling others what I’ve learned through my experiences won’t help them. But there is something I find particularly interesting, which won’t interfere one way or the other. When the experience is over, it takes a few seconds to remember myself…to recover my memories of where, and even who I am. And although I know it’s only a few seconds, it seems much longer.
After my first awakening experience I didn’t tell my teacher right away. I kept it entirely to myself for more than a week. It’s a very personal sort of thing, and again, there is that whole”you have to be one to know one” issue, and how do you tell your teacher that he helped you attain something that you know he hasn’t yet experienced himself? I had been thinking of how to tell my teacher when Go, a 4th grade boy who helped out around the temple asked me what I was doing, and I told him. About to seconds later I realized that Go thought I just didn’t know the Thai words to use to tell him, so he wen’t running off at top speed to tell him for me.
I shared the a small two room elevated house with my teacher, and go Go barely made it to the door before he started excitedly yelling that Suwatt (my thai name) already attained nibbāna. I emerged from my room and looked over at my teacher who had a puzzled smile on his face. He asked me if it were true, or if Go was pulling his leg. I cautiously nodded “yes”, and his expression turned to a pure grin which he tried to play down. Although he was as calm and collected as he could manage on the outside, it was clear that inside he was doing a touchdown dance.
Because of my meditation progress, I was given the honor of spending time with some of the highest regarded Meditation Masters alive, including students of the renowned Ajaan Mun Bhuridatta Thera. The short time spent with these true masters was indeed precious. My teacher didn’t travel with me, telling me he had responsibilities to attend to at our village temple. Instead he explained that opportunities such as these don’t come along very often, especially for village monks. And because he couldn’t go, I should take a couple of younger monks from a nearby temple with me.
I returned to my home temple with open invitations to stay with two of the masters I had visited. I had intended to accept one of them, but by the time I made it back to our village temple I noticed something had changed. The mixed emotions of betrayal, fear, and rage that prompted me to leave the U.S. had vanished. There was no reason not to return, other than the fact that I would be facing possible desertion charges. Still, I had left to deal with my PTSD (even though I didn’t know what it was at the time), and I had, so it was time to return and face the music.
As it turned out, the U.S. Navy and Army had been in a race to have the first Buddhist Chaplain, but neither had a candidate that had been able to complete boot camp. Enter the Buddhist Monk already under contract with the United States Marine Corps, which is under the department of Navy, and you get the picture.
There is a lot a person can learn working with Chaplains from a variety of religious backgrounds. In the private sector divisions of faith can run deep, but in a cooperative environment it’s all about helping those who are in need, religious or not, no mater their faith. This mix of religion and practice was the perfect setting to become acquainted with Rinzai Zen, and spend some time with a Pure Land community off base. Being the first Buddhist Monk working within any branch of the Chaplain Corps, I did help set some Government procedures with regards to dealing with the death of Buddhist troops, and their families. I also participated with a very forward thinking, hands-on, anti-suicide program where everyone involved had attempted suicide at least once. After fulfilling my military contract and returning to the U.S. I found the divisions of faith to run far deeper than I had remembered. Part of what’s moved me towards understanding meditation in it’s purest form, has been to try steering clear of the deep, segregating, ruts that still plague our society.
In all honesty, returning to the U.S. was sort of a let-down. The richly diverse cross section of cultures religions, and philosophies I had been involved with gave way to a comparatively fractured society. I did teach for a few years here in the U.S., but it was obvious from the outset that crossing cultural, religious, and philosophical lines would be difficult at best. With assistance, I did create what may have been the first Online-only Temple, and helped to create an insight meditation center in Denver, CO, but my interests had long since moved past merely teaching Buddhist meditation, to exploring the meditative process itself. As a Monk, I was expected to hold to traditional methods of meditation, so I decided it was time to move on.
Over the next fifteen years, my understanding of meditation continued to mature, until I had the confidence to throw out everything I knew, and start over from scratch. It took a few years to carefully examine, and re-examine, every aspect of the meditation process.
In the end, I was extremely surprised to find that I was the first person to outline exactly how meditation works, although Gutama Sidartha (the Buddha) was very close, and Dr. Wilhelm Wundt (the father of modern experimental psychology) was certainly on the right track.”