For everyone who has been given an opportunity, however small,
to help others wake up and discover their divine nature.
Recently I had a conversation with a student who is creative, intelligent, devotional and has a natural desire to be of benefit to others. Despite all of this, nearly every moment of this student’s life is a struggle with competitiveness and the need to prove his worth, even at the expense of others.
In my life as a practitioner, I have traveled from near total ignorance of my own pride and competitiveness, to seeing it everywhere, to many years of doing the work of revealing its manifestations layer by layer and much praying for release. My deepest desire has always been to be used: to be in a position in which every gift I came here with could be used fully to support what I recognized early on as primordial goodness. Yet even with this unstoppable desire, I found that my engrained habit of seeking admiration was standing in my way.
Whatever we give, to whatever extent we are giving to support our own self-image, that is precisely the extent to which we are denying benefit to others.
After a long time and a lot of sadhana, I reached some kind of tipping point. My desire to discover true open-heartededness became stronger than the karmas of pride and the need to defend self-image.
What I feel today is helpless wonder and gratitude, a desire to humble myself entirely and try my best to give without any reserve or impediment. I feel that if I am able to do this, even if my gifts are small, my life has been well lived, and I have served my Guru by doing the job she has assigned to me.
I really do not have words to express my gratitude for this less conflicted desire. I feel as if I have been rescued from some endless, incomprehensible struggle. And even having miles to go, I constantly am aware of the tender, guiding grace of my Guru, step-by-step lighting the way to more unmitigated open-heartedness and the natural devotion and deep relaxation we call surrender.
So many of us here in the U.S. season our giving with the poison of self-agrandizement and pride. We feel badly if we are not continually proving ourselves or striving for greatness and admiration, even in giving. We disguise self-advertisement as humility. We are so steeped in a culture of pride and self-image promotion, that it is difficult even for sincere people to gain clarity about all of the nuanced ways in which we are propagating it.
I mentioned my student and myself, but I can’t think of a single person born in the U.S. who I teach, or have met, who does not embody in some way this culture of pride.
What I have learned, often painfully, is that the only way to give fully, to be fully used, is to get our karmas of self-image protection and striving for recognition out of the way entirely. I think this is the most pressing concern for those of us who are in teaching positions, or positions in which we share wisdom traditions such as Ayurveda, Jyotish and divination.
Until we stop striving for recognition and massaging and defending self-image, we will never be fully fit to serve others on the path of waking up.
As the accomplished and brilliant teacher Dudjom Rinpoche wrote:
The appearance of greatness like dog shit wrapped in brocade
If I have it, fine; if not, fine
Having smelled the stink of my own ignorance,
May I constantly practice the Supreme Teaching.
Lots of love,