Disappointment and Self-realization

Empty Swings and Chairs
April 7, 2021

Shambhavi lays out two kinds of disappointment: the disappointment we encounter as we start to wake up and the disappointment associated with Hungry Ghost karmic vision. A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi


I ran across a quote from you, I don't know if it was you or someone or something that Ma said, about how for practitioners disappointment is like your greatest friend or really valuable.

But then I've also been noticing, like a different type of disappointment that I have just in general in life. A tendency, it feels like hungry ghost-y to be like disappointed in things. And I was wondering if you can talk about this, too.

Yeah, that's a great question. Two different kinds of disappointment. So as in all things. There is a continuum of all phenomena that we experience in our lives.

That, there is a more enlightened version of something, and then there's a more contracted, karmically-bound version of the same thing. We're disappointed in other people. We're disappointed in circumstances. That's the contracted version, and I'll explain why in a minute.

Then there's this other kind of disappointment that comes at different junctures in our spiritual life. That's disappointment that our karmas are not actually how things are.

In other words, we start to have more clear-seeing. And then we can become disappointed in what we see, because it represents that what we saw before was not actually how things are. So we can get sort of a temporary feeling of disappointment.

But that's actually leading to having more equanimity about how things are. When we get through that little sandhi of disappointment. About, oh, being the best of things really isn't going to solve my problems.

My whole strategy that I've been employing my whole life of trying to be the best at everything is not actually going to bring me contentment. And it doesn't actually even mean anything. And it's like, oh. [laughs] So there's that kind of disappointment.

But then there's this other thing that's more on the contracted part of the scale, or the continuum. That is about perpetuating a feeling that nothing is satisfying.

And that relates directly to Hungry Ghost karmic realm vision. Which now, even the people that haven't taken that teaching for me know that there's some writings about that on the website that you can reference if you want to.

Hungry Ghost is a feeling of lack. A feeling of missing out. It's like karmic FOMO, right? Except that it actually is trying to perpetuate that. So what is one possible way of perpetuating—and not the only way there's a whole supermarket full of ways—but one way is you set standards for other people.

You don't even voice them. Because if you told other people what your standards were, maybe they would actually try to meet them. And then you'd have no basis for being disappointed, [laughs] disappointed.

But you have these internal standards that you are constantly measuring other people by, and they are constantly falling short. And it doesn't matter what they do.

You are always going to find some way to describe them as having fallen short. Because the goal is not to be satisfied. The goal is to continue feeling disappointed. To perpetuate that feeling of disappointment.

Disappointment is really one of the absolute hallmarks of hungry ghosts. You know, there's also a little Titan in there because other people are never good enough.

But the response to it isn't to outwardly compete with them. It's to be disappointed, disapproving, negative about life. Life is never going to bring me what I want. And you also interpret events very negatively.

So a couple of times this week with different people, some people, someone in our community reported to me that someone else was having a very hard time. This was two different instances.

And I sort of, you know, went and talked to the people and they were like, I don't know, what? No, I wasn't having a hard time. Or the other person said, yeah, it was, but it wasn't that bad.

So, you know, there's a way that if we have this lens through which everything is always going to hell in a handbasket, even when people are talking to us and telling us their experience, we're hearing it in a more negative way.

Or hearing it, it's everything's worse through our lens than it actually is for the people who are telling us about that. That's another kind of a hungry ghost thing.

Then that's what we have to understand as the key to why these, you know, that the realms are not trying to end. They're like trying to perpetuate. Because through those karmic patterns, you have fooled yourself into thinking you can resolve the problem of your feeling of separation.

But it never works. So, for instance, always being disappointed. Do you know how powerful being disappointed in other people is? There's like a whole swath of people who do not want to disappoint other people.

So if someone who's constantly disappointed, and other people always falling short, gets hooked up with someone who never wants to disappoint, that is a match made in heaven or the other h-word. I mean, I don't know which, [laughs] right?

Because, the person who's always disappointed is constantly magnetizing. Holding, and making this very strong energetic bond with the person who never wants to disappoint anyone.

That person who never wants to disappoint is like a big fish with a big hook through their cheek. When someone's always on the verge of or threatening to be disappointed or criticizing you for having fallen short in some way.

Then that person who doesn't want to disappoint, just is scrambling, scrambling, scrambling, scrambling. To not disappoint the person who's always going to be disappointed.

So that person who's always disappointed, look at this mechanism. They have formed a very strong bond. And that is, in a way, a resolution to the fear of loneliness and separation.

But it's a bond that just keeps you like this, you know, it doesn't go anywhere. It's only a kind of—I don't know why the word simulacrum keeps coming into my mind. But a simulation of a connection, it's not really and it's not real.

A fixation on fixation.

Yeah, it's like but it's like a perfect match. [laughter] Everybody's getting what they want, right? The person who never wants to disappoint gets to keep trying, never to disappoint. Over and over and over and over and over again. They're running their thing.

And then the other person gets to constantly be disappointed and have that person never leave them. And that person who is always disappointed, is trying to form a connection through being critical of other people.

And it really works because it is hard to walk away from someone who is finding fault with you without trying to prove that you didn't do anything wrong. [laughs] Right? It's hard to walk away from that person. A lot of us will not want someone else to think ill of us.

The same goes for Hell realm, right? People are always angry at other people and always critical of them in that way. You know, disappointment is like a sad kind of disapprobation, criticism.

But constant anger at other people is even more magnetizing. Because you don't want people to be angry with you. Think about it. Even like people who were angry with you ten years ago that aren't even in your life anymore.

Some of us might think of those people and kind of go, uh. Like even the idea that there's someone out there who's still angry at us is hard. So that is like super magnetizing when people are negative and critical about you and you want to fix that.

They've got you, right? They've got you in their, in their orbit. Until you just decide, whatever, and leave.

At work this week, I got super angry. And like I thought of ways to, to hurt another person professionally as payback. And it's not often that I go there. I was just curious what, what, why that's so attractive. It felt very vengeful. And I felt good in an icky way.

Well, I think it has to do with not being able to tolerate someone else being critical of us, or disapproving of us. You know, we don't want that person to exist anymore. We want them to go out of our field. Right?

Right. He publicly, not humiliated me, but publicly threw me under the bus in front of a whole bunch of other people. And so that's like a big—I noticed that's like a thing for me. And I wanted to destroy him publicly. That was like my response.

I hope you did some, some breathing. [laughter]

Hiranyagarbha, is a good variation to bring it back here.

[Laughs] What do I really want? Who do I really want to be?

Because it gets dark, you know? It gets really dark in there when I'm going through that. Yeah.

Yeah, well think of it. They're like touching on your core samskara, which is your fear of criticism. And then someone does that publicly. And it's humiliating.

You know, if someone does that, like up to a certain point, you're still trying to please them and placate them. But then I guess he crossed some sort of line and then it was like, ehh, death! Right? [laughter]

No more Mr. Nice Guy. [laughs] Yeah. Look how much energy is behind that.

So much, yeah.

You know what Patrul Rinpoche would have said? If you're praised, it's bad. If you're humiliated, it's good. Because then you get to see this. You get to experience this. You get to work with this.

Whereas if you're praised, then you just continue looking for more. We have to know that these things are part of us. In order to develop the desire to release them.

That turns him into a little Buddha for me now, though. [laughs] Which is a good thing.




So like Hungry Ghost likes to perpetuate itself. Is that true of all the realms?

Absolutely. But it's harder to understand with hungry ghosts because, you know, it has to do with the feeling of lack or loss. And then we naturally might think, oh, if we're hungry and we feel lacking in loss, we would eat something. We would find something to fill that void.

But it's actually, it's just less obvious with hungry ghosts that what's happening is the void is being protected. [laughs] And perpetuated. Because sadness and disappointment is the way that people experiencing that are connecting with other people.

You know, being pitiable. Being at literally, being in a condition where people will pity you is another thing that happens. Like that's a connection, right? It's a connection.

So it's being perpetuated. It's that every single realm is trying to resolve the problem of loneliness and disconnection. Every single one of them. They're just doing it in this way that is not particularly effective.

Or it's only effective very temporarily. Like think of the relief you feel when someone who was angry at you is no longer angry at you. Or someone who was criticizing you is no longer criticizing you. It's like, oh, I'm saved.

But you're not, you know, it lasts for a minute. Because you're trying to, perpetually having to prove yourself. So you're always going to look for situations in which you have to do that.

Can you talk a little bit about what it's like when Titan and Hell realm try to perpetuate themselves?

[laughs] They all work exactly the same way. I mean, very simple way to understand Titan realm is, the struggle is never over. The minute one thing is won, the next prize to be won comes into view.

There's never any rest. It's the most restless, unresting realm. And Hell realm just sees everything as hurtful. And continually keeps seeing things as hurtful, whether they are or not.

And keeps insisting on the feeling of hurt and pain. Underlining it over and over and over again. Aren't we having a cheery conversation? [laughter]


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