Insincerity in Your Practice, Resistance, and Dharmic Beauty

April 24, 2024

Shambhavi and the Jaya Kula community gather for satsang and get real about all the questions we humans want answered. Intimate, courageous, heartfelt spiritual talk about pretty much everything. So happy you are here! A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi

I was listening to a podcast today, and you made a quick reference to insincerity in our practice. And I didn't really understand what you mean. So I wonder how my insincerity in our practice can look like.

Oh my gosh. Okay. Does anyone mind staying for an extra few days? [laughs]

We were reading a poem by Lalleshwari last night about insincerity in practice. It was a very short poem, but one of the things she says is, if you mix salt with water, it won't be the sea. And if you just sit in a certain way, it's not going to really be immersion in presence.

So one form of insincerity is being attached to technique and rules and not actually letting yourself be immersed in anything. Not letting anything reach your heart. So that's one major form of insincerity.

Another form of insincerity that I think plagues us here in European and American context when we're practicing in traditions from India and Tibet, for instance, is what could be called holy schmolyness.

We don't really get it, but something attracts us about it. [laughs] So we sort of engage in histrionic forms of expressions of devotion, or histrionic forms of expression of seriousness, when we're not really connecting.

We don't really know what we're doing. And we WANT to connect, but we don't really know how. And we're just sort of doing something that imitates something we think looks spiritual. That is very, very common.

And sometimes that comes from a place of sincerity in the sense that there's a sincere longing, but there's a disconnect between us and what we're doing. And so we're just trying to get into it, but we don't really know how, so we're just sort of faking it.

But of course, that kind of insincerity can also be of a more pernicious form when people are trying to manipulate us, like teachers that are faking things. But that's not what I'm talking about.

A lot of other forms of insincerity are just related to unclarity.

For instance, sometimes students will verbally profess a lot of devotion: I want to do everything you tell me to do, I'm lying at your feet. But the MINUTE you cross any line with them, or ask them to do anything even slightly uncomfortable or that they don't want to do, they're, like, NO!

So that's, like, a lack of clarity, right? One hand doesn't know what the other hand is doing. One hand is wanting to be this devoted, surrendered student, and the other hand doesn't want to do anything slightly uncomfortable or inconvenient.

So, those two things don't really go together. [laughs] So that creates a kind of insincerity.

Then there's just how we use our time and the excuses we make for not being in the state of our practice. I mean, those forms of insincerity are just vast.

Or maybe they're not so much insincerity, it's just laziness of some sort. Stagnation of some sort. Habitual, we just– In our groove.

I always think of interstate freeways where there's a lot of trucks traveling interstate. There are those grooves in the tarmac because of the heavy trucks going on them, right? And if you're driving on those you just tend to slip into those grooves, like that.

In fact, my first year in Portland, in 2007, I had some students who were up on Mt. Hood, and I used to drive up there once a month and do satsang.

There was a lot of grooves in the road, and when the rainy season came, the grooves would fill up with water, and I hydroplaned a few times. It was really pretty scary. But that's a different story. [laughs]

So the numbers of ways we're just not really being honest with ourselves or other people. All of these are completely normal. These are all very, very normal things. They're not unusual.

It's not like most people are sincere, and then there's a few unlucky people who are insincere. Hardly anyone is sincere 100% of the time. So this is our condition.

But what brings sincerity is a desire to have clarity. A desire to know what's really happening here. A desire to have real spiritual insight. A desire to be actually helpful.

And eventually, as we go along, if we keep practicing, we just don't want to be insincere. Because we realize it's in our way. There's no actual use of insincerity other than to block us from having a full life. Lots and lots and lots of insincerities.

But lack of clarity, a lot of the time is at the root of it. I think lack of clarity could be a description of lack of self-realization. It's sort of a general descriptor.

If we had clarity, we would realize that insincerity is in our way. We would feel the way that we're just cheating ourselves with it.

I think one form of insincerity I have in my practice is trying to keep this resolution to practice for at least an hour every day. And some days when I don't really want to practice, I feel like I'm still meeting the resolution, but I more just want it to be over.

I don't think that's necessarily a situation of insincerity. It might just be a situation of resistance.

So, there are things that we do that we don't want to do, but we do them because there's an underlying understanding that we do want to do it for other reasons.

A prime example of this is if we have a cranky parent. A parent that isn't really so easy to be around, who needs care. And we don't like being around them sometimes because they're cranky and difficult. But underlying that is that we really want to take care of them and love them.

Some days we're just going to be, like, oh my God, I can't do this anymore! But there's going to be an underlying something else.

And that's really more what I feel is apropos to practice, where EVERYBODY has days where we don't want to do practice. Or even weeks or months.

But if there's that underlying thing of, yes, this is really what I want to do with my life, and I in some way understand that I have a deep desire to do this, even if on Thursday I hate it. [laughs]

Then that's not insincerity. And that's the situation where we should just keep going.

But if we're doing an hour practice a day because we think, oh, Shambhavi says, if you want to work closely with me, you need to practice an hour a day. And I think everyone else in the community is doing it but me. And I want to stay in the community because I want approval and I want to find someone to date.

Then that might be a situation of insincerity. [laughs]

So some people just discover, wait, I don't actually even like this. I don't actually even have a deep desire to do this, and I was doing it for other reasons.

But again, just simply not wanting to do it is not necessarily a sign of insincerity. It just might be a sign that you're a normal person doing practice.

The other thing is that sometimes we're doing practice and it's just not the right practice for us, or we need to tweak it a little bit or something. Or we're just feeling things are getting stale. We've been doing the same thing, like, Eveready battery.

So that's when you should ask your teacher, whoever gave you the practices that you're doing. That's where you should consult, if you think that's happening.

I was editing a podcast last week, and we said in it that creating beauty is dharmic. I was wondering if you could talk about that.

There's a huge contrast between the Abrahamic gods and the gods of the Hindu traditions and THE alive, aware reality of the non-dual traditions like Trika and Dzogchen.

There's one huge difference where they really don't match up, and that is the Abrahamic tradition gods are operating on an axis of reward and punishment. You do good, you get rewarded, you do bad, you get punished. That means there IS good and there IS bad.

So, those of you who are my long-time students who have been out there on social media saying things like Biden is evil, you're totally out of View. Totally, totally out of View.

Just think about that. I've been meaning to mention that. Because in this tradition and in Dzogchen, there is only goodness. Goodness is the ground of all being.

And in Dzogchen, that's called Samantabhadra, the All-Good. And in this tradition, it's called Shiva, the auspicious or the beneficent. Is that a concept? No.

It's what you experience when you are more immersed in presence. You experience this overwhelming, unmitigated, unbroken sweetness, tenderness, goodness. It's impossible to describe.

But anyway, it's a direct experience that we call, in some instances, Shiva and Samantabhadra.

So this famous ananda that you hear talked about in yoga studios, that often gets translated as bliss, which we then sort of normalize and chop down to size and think that it means some fuzzy, buzzy feeling of bliss. Or something orgasmic or something like that.

What that really means in Trika Shivaism is a state of absolutely profound enjoyment of the creativity and the creative productions of the Self.

And this enjoyment has a deep, deep, deep aesthetic component, and it's related to beauty. That everything has this aspect of– a jewel-like aspect.

In both Dzogchen and Trika, everything that we experience is called the glamour of this reality. Glamour meaning both glamorous, beautiful, and glamour meaning magic. So, glamour is an old word for a magical spell. To be glamoured means to be under a spell.

And so everything is said to be appreciated by this alive and self-aware reality in this profound way that we call bliss. And so when we enjoy things, and we create things, we are being more like God.

We are expressing more of the capacities of this alive, aware reality when we appreciate, when we enjoy, and when we create things that are causing us to appreciate and enjoy.

So that's why I said making beauty is dharmic. Making a beautiful practice space, a beautiful living space, anywhere. Taking care of things in a beautiful way, people and also spaces and inanimate things.

Enjoying beautiful objects. Enjoying the beauty of everything, eventually. And enjoying the beauty that is also pain.

So enjoying the beauty of ALL the emotions, not just the ones we call happy or nice. Enjoying the beauty of all of the emotions, the whole palette of emotions.

We're already doing this. We just won't admit it because we're not sincere. But we go to the movies or watch TV shows that are full of all kinds of negative emotions. Jealousy, anger, murderous rage. I don't know, whatever, name it.

And what do we do? We enjoy the heck out of it. It's only because we've made this red line between art and life that we think, we'll just sneak over here and enjoy it. But God is enjoying all of it.

And the thing you have to understand, or you don't have to understand it, and you won't understand it, but maybe some of you have a little inkling of it. There actually are no worlds. There are no beings. There is no suffering.

This is the highest teaching, the most absolute teaching, in both Buddhist and Indian non-dual traditions. There is the PLAY of beings, worlds, and suffering. The PLAY of those things, like a drama. But also playFUL, like, to be an artist and make art being playful.

When we have this realization, even a little bit of it, then we can start to notice that in the horror that we feel at certain things in life, there is also some aspect of enjoyment of that emotion. Just how that feels.

But we are very married to our right and wrong, and our punishment and reward, and our sense of goodness as people being based on ethics and morality, and following certain prescribed behaviors and being horrified at certain things and not at others.

We can't understand this intellectually. It's really, really different from the Abrahamic cultures that we are immersed in.

Many times people come and say to me, or you hear just talked about on the internet, or on TV shows, or interviews with spiritual leaders, oh, all religions are basically the same. They aren't. They have some similarities, but there are also great differences between them.

And I think it's hard for people who first encounter these kinds of traditions to have the guts to recognize that. It's scary.

It's just safer to go to a tradition, say from Tibet or Thailand, or somewhere where there's more rules, and someone saying this is right and this is wrong, and you have to have these ethics and you should follow these precepts.

Those are kinds of traditions that are from the countries that this tradition is from that just feel safer for people. They're more like the Abrahamic traditions, or have more of those structures and guardrails.

But once you get to a direct realization tradition, you're really out of that zone. And this is why it's said that only very mature practitioners can tolerate these kinds of traditions.

It really is a stretch and a reorientation. And it's based on direct experience. It's not based on intellectualizing about things. So you can't really figure this out.

The only thing I would say is that if you're really worried now [laughs], just notice that teachers, at least if they have some honest realization, are actually more compassionate, more sweet, more tender, more kind. We don't suddenly become horrible because we are having this View.

The realization of this View naturally causes us to want to care for everything. Or as Abhinavagupta said, be all for others. That is a natural result of this.

Even though it seems, oh, no, but I need my right and wrong and good and bad and punishment and reward. It all falls apart! It's all going to become very dangerous and horrible if you teach me that there really is no suffering and there really are no independent beings and there really are no worlds.

Or, as Ma said, what worlds? What countries?

We can PLAY with worlds and countries and beings and rules. We can play in the realm that we've been born in. It's not like we're going to wander around ignoring everything. This is not about that either. It's about enjoying everything in manifest life.

My Dzogchen teacher, Namkhai Norbu, used to say, just fit in wherever you go. Follow the local customs. [laughs]

So just to reiterate, having this View that there are no beings and no worlds and no suffering, everything is a play of that Self happening within that Self, within that subjectivity, does not mean that we don't feel.

It means that we feel everything.

This is a practice of opening the gates of the senses. Not shutting down and going inside. It's a practice of becoming like a fountain, giving, giving, giving, giving, giving. Like God. God is giving, giving, giving, giving, giving. Totally overflowing.

There's an old science fiction short story from the 50s, I can't remember what it’s called or who wrote it. But anyway, it’s about this machine that turns out to be God. And something’s gone wrong with it.

So this machine is just outputting all the worlds and all the people and all the beings, like, continuously. But it's a machine in a room, and it's just doing that. But something goes wrong, and it just goes haywire, and it's producing way, way, way too much.

I don't remember what happens after that, but that's, like, what is happening. God is a madhouse of creativity. Everything's just happening. It cannot stop being expressed ever.

There's this little video on YouTube of Swami Lakshmanjoo, and he's giving one of his lectures to his students there in Kashmir. And he taught from text a lot of the time.

He had this book in his hand, he's, like, [excited tone of voice] I just couldn't wait to tell you this today! But Lord Shiva is just so excited! He's so excited! He just overflows continuously! He's so excited! [laughs] It's really cute if you could find it.

But again, you don't have to believe me, but I'm telling you this. Everything I'm saying, you can discover for yourself.

This is not something you have to believe or have faith in. You don't have to believe me. I don't even want you to.

If you have a sense of something that strikes you as true, fine. Or you have your own experience from doing practice, some of you. But I'm not asking you to believe me, but I AM telling you you can experience this for yourself directly. That's what this is about.


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