Courage, Persistence, and the Wild Upsurge of Wisdom

May 10, 2023

Remaining undistracted from living presence takes courage and persistence. But why are we often afraid of the upsurge of our own wisdom when it comes? A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi

You talked about persistence as a form of courage. And I wonder how it's courageous to persist.

Sometimes we persist, meaning that something is persisting. An engine of karmic momentum is persisting. And we're not exactly in the driver's seat of that karma. We are in the trunk or in the back seat being driven along by an engine that won't stop.

That's not the kind of persistence that is courageous. [laughs] We have lots of reactivity to life's ups and downs. We don't like it when things don't go our way. We love it when they do.

We don't like it when people don't like us that we like or when they leave us. And if they like us back, we're really happy. If we find a good restaurant, we're happy. If we find a bad restaurant, we're pissed off. Whatever, all the different things.

We're worried about this and worried about that and excited about the other thing. Persistence means that in every circumstance, no matter what is arising, either externally or internally, we are remembering to be in the state of our practice.

This is the ultimate form of persistence. And it takes a lot of courage because we have to go against, oftentimes, what other people expect of us. Sometimes we have to go against karmas that we have that are condoned and even praised socially.

There's many, many of those when we live in a Titan culture where everything is around achievement and competition. There's lots of things we get praised for and rewarded for monetarily that are actually karmic habit patterns that aren't serving us.

They may be serving us in ordinary ways, but they're not serving us to actually realize the fruit of our practice. The courage in persistence is persisting in remembering the view.

In every circumstance, whether we're upset, whether we're ecstatic, whether we're bored, whether we're content. Whatever state we're in, we're remembering the view.

Sometimes people have said to me, Oh, I haven't been practicing this last week because something really upsetting happened. [laughs] That one always gets me. It's like, Really? Isn't that when you would be more inclined to practice?

But what that means is that someone has basically naturalized a certain response to an event. Let's say they lost a job, or someone they love gets sick, or they got in a car accident, or they got a big tax bill they weren't expecting, or something like that.

Something went wrong. And now they have naturalized a response to it, an emotional response to it that they feel justified in having. And have completely forgotten the view and forgotten their practice. Because they are now just in the back seat of that car of naturalized reactivity, speeding along naturalized reactivity highway. [laughter]

What the tradition actually teaches us is that our reactions to things are aspects of our karma, not our kriya. So our bound, our limitation, not our freedom and spontaneity.

When we are in a more open and spontaneous mode, we're free to respond in many different ways to different kinds of events that happen. We're not bound to respond in only one way.

But when those responses are naturalized, then we think they are the only and the just and the justified responses to things. And then we are in the thrall of our limitations.

So persistence means persisting in the view and persisting in remembering the state of our practice. And that takes courage. If we get something we want, we get a new lover, or we get a job. Again, we can become, okay, it's all done. I'm happy now. [laughs]

We forget impermanence. We forget what our actual deeper desire is. We forget the source of all longing. We forget the teachings, we forget the view. And we just let that indulgence of that momentary happiness, momentary in terms of a human lifetime, be momentarily satisfying.

Oh, I didn't practice last week because I have a new they friend. Because you know how it is when you first meet somebody. You know, you just can't practice under those circumstances. [laughter] So we have naturalized a response to that.

And all that means is that for some period of time, we have receded, or ceded, C-E-D-E-D, our knowledge of the view and our knowledge of what real contentment and real happiness is. And we've basically settled for less.

It doesn't mean that we shouldn't be happy if something nice happens. It doesn't mean that we should brow-beat ourselves if we're upset about something.

But no matter what is happening, including our own internal reactions, we should be remembering the view. Trying to make contact with presence. Trying to be immersed in presence. Being in a state of guru yoga.

Remembering our teachers. Remembering the teachings. Doing the practices. This is the courage of persistence as it applies to spiritual practitioners.

Some of us, especially when we live in a country that's marinating in the Abrahamic traditions, we have this idea that we want to be saved. Even if we're not Christian, inside we still have this idea we're going to be saved.

We're going to be saved by having the right job. We're going to be saved by having the right love relationship. We're going to be saved by having children. We're going to be saved by having a lot of money in the bank.

And so we head toward that. And of course, those things do not save us. In no instance does any of those things save us. What do we want to be saved from?

We want to be saved from fear. We want to be saved from uncertainty. We want to be saved from change. Good luck with that. [laughs] We want to be saved from feeling lonely. And none of those things lasts, and none of those things fully answers what it is we want to be saved from.

So that feeling of wanting to be saved from all those things is the same impulse that leads us to do practice. We want refuge, but you can't take refuge in an affair or a marriage. You can't take refuge in a house. You can't take refuge in a bank account. You can't take refuge in a job.

It just doesn't work. Because the ultimate desire, where all of those other micro desires are coming from is the desire to find refuge in one's own self. And of course, this tradition teaches that one's own self is identical to all of reality and to God.

And the only way to take refuge in that is to discover your real nature or living presence or God. To discover that in an embodied way. So there is refuge, but just not in the things that distract us from persisting in the path to discovering refuge.

This tradition and the others I practice in are traditions of akhanda sadhana, unbroken sadhana. Constantly remembering the name of God. Constantly remembering teacher. Constantly being in the state of your practice.

Constantly integrating your experience with living presence, your awareness with living presence. There's probably a hundred different ways of saying the same thing.

But eventually doing that 24/7, even in your sleep, that's the refuge. Until it becomes utterly spontaneous, and you are spontaneously integrated in every moment. That's what happens eventually.

As Ma said, continuous effort leads to effortless being. What you discover through effort eventually becomes your new normal, your new base. You eventually integrate with it. It becomes spontaneous.

I had never thought before about the connection between courage and confidence. And I think what I'm hearing you say is that that kind of persistence comes from confidence. Confidence in the real refuge.

Yeah, but confidence comes from experience of that. Each of us already is the Supreme Self. And when we discover that, when we have even small experiences of that, that is what gives confidence. We experience directly the nature of the self, the nature of God, the nature of reality.

We experience for ourselves that supreme intelligence and compassion and beneficence. Even for a moment, it changes us. It re-embodies us slowly over time. All those moments re-embody us. And that brings confidence.

We might not be starting from zero, right? I mean, we all come in in a different condition. We might be already coming in with some of that confidence. And I would say that anyone who even bothers to embark on a path like this already has to have some of that confidence.

There's a saying, I don't remember the Sanskrit, but anyway, something like, in order to become God, you have to know God. Meaning that in order to be on the path of recognizing your identity with God, you have to already know God.

You have to already know what you're looking for. And I think this is very, very true. You can't begin if you don't already know a little bit. Most people that I've met in this culture, and I don't know if this is true in all cultures or all times, I have no idea. But most people I meet are afraid of their own confidence.

They're afraid of their own wisdom. And are not only longing for it, but at the same time rejecting it. Because it is inconvenient. Wisdom is inconvenient. If we look at it in the context of contemporary society and what it expects of us and what we expect of ourselves.

We also don't know where it's going to be leading us. It's utterly fresh and new and spontaneous in every moment. It's not like going to a life coach and plotting out something for the next five years. It just surges up, that wisdom, that confidence.

We've also been highly, highly trained to be suspect of and skeptical of our own knowing, our own experience. And we have been taught, trained to the utmost, to only rely on rationalistic thinking, problem solving.

Where wisdom is concerned, there's no problem solving needed. There's no thinking needed. There's no pros and cons needed. There's no self help books needed. It arises and you follow it and that's it.

And every single person has access to that in some degree or another. But we're afraid of it. We're afraid it's duping us. We know it's not and so we're afraid of the consequences of that.

We're basically a bunch of cowards. [laughter] And we've been trained to be cowards. We're basically cowards. You know, our wisdom, the wisdom, God's wisdom, we're not in control of it.

It doesn't have reasons. It doesn't have justifications. It's wild. I've been reading volume eight of Gurupriya Devi's day-by-day, blow-by-blow account of her time with Ma. And volume 8, by the way, is the best.

It's much more revelatory in terms of Ma, the tenor of Ma's everyday interactions with people. And there's a few places, I'm not very far into it, but there's a few places where people are constantly trying to get Ma to stay with them.

She shows up and they're constantly trying to get her to stay longer. And she's constantly telling them, I just go wherever I feel like going. It's just too bad. That's what I'm going to do.

And there's one scene where she's traveling with Gurupriya Devi, of course. Because that's the narrator who knows about all these things. They're going to Vindhyachal and Gurupriya Devi has called ahead, Allahabad, to somebody who's going to pick them up at a train station and supposedly drive to Vindhyachal.

And Ma says, a little bit testily to Gurupriya Devi, so you called ahead? And Gurupriya Davey says yes. And Ma says, That's not my way. So she immediately changes and just stays on the train to Vindhyachal.

And leaves all the people in Allahabad, just kind of like, whatever. This crowd at the train station waiting for her. [laughter] And she's basically telling Gurupriya Devi, don't plan for me. That isn't how things work with me. I don't want you calling ahead and arranging things. That's not how I travel.

It's really marvelous. But our wisdom is the same way. It doesn't plan ahead. It's just like, here's what to do now. Here's what not to do now. And then we only have light one step in front of us.

We don't like living that way. We want to know what we're doing at least several steps ahead, why we're doing it. We want everyone else to think it's okay that we're doing it. We want approval for how we're doing it, etc. etc. On and on.

This isn't how wisdom functions, and this is why we're scared of our own wisdom. And this is why I have such a hard time working with teachers, by and large. Real ones, anyway. We're happy with teachers who have lots of rules and tell you what's going to happen 15 steps ahead. And everything's all organized.


Satsang with Shambhavi is a weekly podcast about spirituality, love, death, devotion and waking up while living in a messy world.