Interdependency Is Always a Thing

Working Together at the Computer
November 18, 2020

Shambhavi talks about our culture of shaming people who need help or ask for help. Where does this attitude come from? A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi

Would you talk about asking for help?

Sure. So some of us feel embarrassed or ashamed if we have to ask for help. Some of us just try to not ask for help. [Laughs]

This is based on an experience of and a conviction that somehow this gross form of independence we call being an individual and doing it ourselves, it's based on a conviction that that's actually what we are. We're trying to defend our position as an independent individual.

And we grow up in a culture or a family where that's emphasized. That it's good to go it on your own. To be self-sufficient. To take care of yourself.

And even this gets translated into sort of new-agey things where they say, give yourself love, be your own best friend. [laughs] There's not actually anything wrong with that advice if it is understood correctly. But generally it's just a more squishy, fuzzy, warm version of individuality and doing everything on your own.

The fact of our existence is that we do nothing alone. We are never not getting help. This is actually just the fact of our existence, every breath that we take requires the cooperation of an entire planet.

All the food that we eat, even if we independently go to the supermarket and buy it. We are dependent on those who grew it. Those who processed it. Those who shipped it. Those who stocked it. Those who checked us out at the supermarket.

The list of dependencies from the simple acts of every day that we might think we're doing by ourselves or we might take pride in being self-sufficient. Every single ordinary act of everyday life, walking, breathing, sitting, sleeping, eating, pooping, combing our hair, brushing our teeth, walking out our front door, staying at home.

Every single thing that we do is utterly dependent on myriad, and I would say even infinite, others and infinite factors and infinite circumstances. This, of course, is what the Buddha called interdependency. Fancy that. And it isn't a high-falutin philosophical concept. If we think about it just for a few moments. It is the fact of our existence.

So anything that doesn't recognize that, any idea that we have about ourselves, or idea that we have about how we should be functioning, or pride that we take in our independence, or shame that we feel at our dependence, is really only based in karmic patterning. In tension, in fear, in misunderstanding of our real condition.

And we can look to our culture, of course, because the sort of extreme feeling of independence, or value that's placed on independence, is not part of every culture on the planet.

When we were in Maine, I was told by people who were from Maine that the real sign of being accepted as in Maine by a person who's from Maine is that they would ask you for help. That was the sign that you were really accepted as a friend or as a viable acquaintance. [laughter]

So no matter how independent you think you are, it's a lie. Even sitting in your apartment or your house. Even if you were in a shack in Wyoming. Even if you were living in a tent somewhere totally off the grid. You are still totally enmeshed in interdependence.

We do nothing alone, absolutely nothing. And this circumstance is a mirror. Or you could say it's a version of our real circumstance on a more absolute level.

Yesterday, I said that there's very simple processes that work all the way through all of reality. If we consider the nature of reality from the absolute perspective, there are no individuals. Period.

There is a real experience of being an individual that's an experience that is tangible that we have. But when we get down to the fundament of reality, there are no individuals. There is one subject, one Self, one nature of mind, one Buddha nature, one whatever you want to call it. That's it. Continuous, one.

From which arises experiences of separation, experiences of being individual, so we have a sort of quasi-independent experience. The fact of our existence is, there are no objects and there are no individuals.

So our interdependence here, our condition of being totally interdependent in a relative sense, is a living symbol of or an echo of or an aspect of the absolute absence of any separation between one thing and another. That is our absolute condition. So that is being recapitulated here in manifest life and duality.

In our dualistic experience, the further we get from recognizing that we are always, always utterly dependent on everything. And the further we get into habits of being attached to some concepts of independence and individuality and going it alone and doing it ourselves and etc.

That just is basically expressing more separation from the wisdom of our real condition. And like everything else here, because what we're talking about is going from less experience of our real nature to more, and because everything is our real nature, it isn't far to go.

It's very simple to find out. All you need to do is consider your real existence here. You need to be able to step away from your embodied concepts. Even just intellectually anyone can understand that we are utterly dependent, utterly. You cannot blink your eyelids without participation from the world.

You had to get born, right? You're dependent on that. Your ability to blink your eyelids is dependent on you getting enough to eat. Dependent on there being a certain amount of moisture in your eyes. You can't even do that independently.

So in our culture here in the US, pretty much ground zero for let's all be independent. Because we have that we also have this cult of being able to take care of ourselves. This cult of shaming people who are ill. Because we're all supposed to be strong and independent.

Cult of shaming anyone who has any kind of disability. Fear of death. Fear of dependency. Shame about dependency. That is one of the effects of our overvaluation of this false sense of independence. So if you are participating in that, instead of thinking of this as some sort of psychological problem, it's a cultural karma.

It's a national karma. It's stronger in some parts of the country than in other parts of the country. But it's definitely part of the sort of founding tone of this country. And it's pernicious and it's a lie. Independence just doesn't exist.

And when we think about the absolute, the whole idea of the question of dependance or independence just doesn't even make sense. If the foundation of all existence is one Self, there's nothing to be independent from. [laughter] Right?

It's not even a question anymore. Doesn't even count. Sometimes you'll hear in certain Indian traditions, not Trika Shaivism, this word you have, kaivalya. Which means that independent self, or being independent. This is not correct view from the perspective of this tradition.

It refers to God, and that when we're more like God we have more of this independence. But the freedom of God that we talk about isn't related to independence. That question just goes away.

That's related to freedom of self-expression, not freedom to be an individual and go off and do whatever you want. It's a different idea of freedom. I have a lot of younger students, although some of them are not younger anymore. They've been around for a while.

And every now and then somebody will need some financial help and they'll say, well, my parents have money, but I don't want to ask them. I'm like, why the heck not? [laughter] Get on with it. [laughter]

So if we feel shame around this, we're trying to make our stand, consider that you've been sold a bill of goods. And that it's not the only way to be in the world because other cultures have more of an idea of collaboration and collectivity and mutual support. And that's the norm in other cultures.

It's certainly the norm in more ancient cultures, by and large. They would laugh at you if you said, I'm trying to be more independent. They'd be like, what? What do you even mean? [laughter]

Can you imagine this? I'm really sick, but I don't want anyone's help because I'm trying to be independent. They would be like, I don't even get what you're talking about. Right? [laughter] So it's good to—by thinking that there is an otherwise.

So this is something that I like to think of. There's always an otherwise. There's always some other way it could be. The way that things are for us is not the only way things can be.

And if we remind ourselves of the otherwise, then it helps us to recognize that the ways that we feel and the karmic patterns we're subject to, are just one set of possibilities among many sets of possibilities. And that begins to free us from the sense that how we feel is perfectly natural. Or from the sense that we're doomed to always feel the way we feel.

It's also good to think about how time-limited a lot of the things we take for granted, or we take as natural, actually are. For instance, the whole concept of shame. It's a very historical time-limited concept. We embody it, we really feel it. I'm not saying it's something fake. It's not just an intellectual idea.

It's an actual experience. But it's an experience of a certain historical time period and a certain sort of person, in a certain sort of milieu. A certain kind of discourse community, or emotional community.

Same thing with the way we talk about trauma. Or even the whole way we even talk about psychology, is a completely time-limited historical phenomenon. So it's good to understand this, it's a way of starting to detach from the idea that these things are who we are.

And that will always be who we are. And it's the only way to be. And it's natural and it's biological. And it's this and it's that and it's the other one. Actually, there's just so many other zones of feeling and ways of relating to being a human being that are possibilities for us.

It doesn't mean you can just automatically step out of the way that you feel. Because these are ingrained patterns of body energy and mind that have momentum. This is why they're called samskaras. Samskaras is a Sanskrit word related to the English word scar. They kind of create grooves in this package of what we are, this jumble sale that we call a person.

And so we start to detach a little from these things. But we shouldn't then put a burden on ourselves that we have to just get rid of them in a snap of the finger. That's not what it's about. It's about slowly divesting ourselves of these patterns.

And a good way to start is by recognizing that ideas about independence and how all the complex feelings we have around that are time-limited, historical. Not how every culture is, not how every culture was, and certainly not the actual fact of our existence. If we consider that.


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