Shambhavi gives us the lowdown on kindness, the greatest spiritual power. A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi
The topic is kindness. And one time I was doing some very intense sadhana and some other realm beings started coming to me and looking for help—in my dreams and also not in my dreams. And these were beings who were in a state of suffering.
Some were animals, some were hungry ghosts, different kinds of beings. Because I was doing the sadhana and every day very intensely I was sending out these prayers for beings to be released from these sufferings, some beings were coming to me and looking for relief. And then when they would show up in my dreams or otherwise, you know sometimes I just had no idea what I was supposed to do.
First of all, the teacher who gave me this practice never said that this would happen. So there were no, I had never been given any instructions. What do you do when a suffering hungry ghost shows up and ask you for help? That wasn't in the manual, you know, I didn't know. [laughs]
But most of the time when I didn't know what to do, something would just come out of my mouth or I would do something. And it was just a gesture of kindness. And what I learned from that was that kindness is the great solvent of karma.
I remember in one of these visions or dreams—I don't remember which it was—this hungry ghost came and said to me that he, she, or it had done something terrible in a previous life and they felt so guilty about it, and they were suffering and in a lot of pain. And I just didn't know what to do. So I just looked right at this being and I said, It's okay, you're doing your best.
And then all of a sudden this being just dissolved and just went, Ahhhhhh. And just all that karma just unwound. And there was a sigh of relief.
I had always been taught that kindness was a medicine. And I learned that when I was doing this practice that that is really the truth.
So, as I always have liked to say, especially being from a tantric tradition where there are often very fiery types who come into the tradition wanting great siddhis, wanting powers, wanting to demonstrate some great accomplishment, or whatever—they have these ideas about what spiritual accomplishment looks like. And I always have thought since that time that the greatest siddhi is kindness.
That if you can experience genuine kindness towards other beings, that is really the accomplishment.
Now, kindness isn't something you think about. It's not a behavior. It's not a set of behaviors that you can just kind of upload and start performing. Kindness comes simply from a feeling of empathy with other beings.
So in order to have an experience of kindness—because it's an experience, it's not a set of pre-described behaviors—in order to have that experience, first of all, you have to know that other beings exist.
You have to be enough out of your own head and your own compulsive playing around with your own experience, your own self concern—you have to be enough out of that that you start to say, hey, wait a minute, there's actually other people out there. They're not just projections of my emotional needs.
So that's number one, when you start to even consider that kindness might be part of your experience, that's a good sign. It means you're starting to come out of your ipod.
But then there's just a basic feeling of empathy, understanding that everyone that is manifest is suffering in some way or another. And on that score, we're all together in this.
There's no one who's really your enemy. There's no one who is undeserving of compassion. There's nobody outside, not other human beings, not other realm beings, not demons, not crazy people, not criminal people. No one, no being, no person is really outside of the family of beings.
We have this way of thinking in our cultures that there's inhuman humans. That's such a ridiculous idea. That's just a way of ejecting things we don't want to deal with out of sight, out of mind.
Everything that we are is what we are. It's very simple, but we forget that all the time. And then we try not to deal with certain people and certain people's behaviors or how certain people feel or certain people's pain, and certainly not other realm beings.
We'll deal with animals. That's about as far as we'll go. Sometimes we'll deal with animals to the exclusion of dealing with people because it's just easier for us.
In any case, kindness is a feeling that comes from empathy, and that empathy that understands—it's not just feeling sorry for other people—it's just that empathy that you understand that you aren't specially singled out. Everybody's having the same kinds of experiences at just at different degrees.
And there's just a natural feeling of wanting to help, wanting to reach out to other beings and help them. That's very, very simple.
But you can't fake it. There's no way that you can fake being kind. We know what that looks like—ugh.
But it really is a very fine, a really fine feeling to feel genuine kindness towards other beings. And to feel that way, regardless of who they are, regardless of who they are. To have that open hearted feeling of empathy to everybody, regardless of who they are without any preference.
Sometimes I just walk around looking at everybody, just feeling my heart overflowing towards everybody. It doesn't matter who they are. I'll just sit around in Whole Foods or something, and I'll just look at each person that's there and my heart is just overflowing.
It doesn't matter what their story is or if they're ugly or beautiful or what walk of life they come from, or whether they are like me or not like me. It doesn't matter at all. And this is the real fruit of the practice.
Of course, there's other things that happen. People could say, Oh, Shambhavi can see our energy bodies. Or Shambhavi can do this. Shambhavi can do that. Or maybe you think you can because we all have the same capacities and then […] but none of that stuff is important.
I've heard people talk about teachers, “They just look at me and I feel waves of shakti coming at me and my spine is tingling and my head is blowing off.” And then you get to see that teacher and they're a complete asshole.
It's not really that hard to move energy around. It's actually quite easy. You can train to do that. You can train to move your energy around and wow other people doing that. But you have to untrain yourself to be kind. You have to surrender all that to be kind, to really be kind.
Ma said that Lord Shiva, or God, or this reality is raining kindness down on us at every moment.
This is just like what Abhinavagupta said. He said Lord Shiva showers Grace in every moment without restraint. So the more that we embody that reality, that fuller reality, the more that kindness just naturally comes out of us.
Again, you have to think about—once you start to feel real kindness or even consider that you might be kind—maybe you haven't been kind in the past [laugher]. And now you're starting to come out a little bit and consider that kindness is a good thing, and to feel a little bit of kindness, we treat it just like a transmission. You feel it, and then you find your way back to that feeling and you have to actually do that work.
You meet somebody and you have an adverse reaction to them. Maybe they smell funny. Maybe they're looking at you weird in a way you don't like to be looked at. Maybe they're a kind of person you've been taught not to like or to be afraid of. And it's in, or it’s in a situation where you would normally get on your high horse or do whatever you do.
And in those moments, if you have experienced kindness, that's when you can go into your heart and do that work to find your way back there. Not to think, how can I be kind in this situation, or wouldn't it be a good thing for that other person if I were kind in this situation?
Think about that dream vision I had. All I said was, you've done your best. It was kind of like—it was a very simple thing to say.
It's not elaborate being kind. It's not anything you have to think about the seven moves you're going to make to prove that you're being kind in a situation. What you really need to do if you've experienced any actual kindness, and some people have not.
Some people are barely aware that other people exist. Sure, you know other people exist. You're having relationships with them. You're living with them, you're going to work and school with them, but they're not really there because you're so immersed in me, myself, and I, and everyone else is just an actor in your me, myself, and I game.
And even if you're acting kind, and you're very nice and everybody says, oh, he's so sweet. But it's all just an act.
You're constantly busy manipulating, and trying to get things out of people, and trying to make situations go the way you want them to go and not the way you don't want them to go. And basically you're just trying to move everybody else around, like players on a chessboard, and they don't really exist other than to satisfy your karmas.
This is how many, many people live. And in that situation, no matter how compassionately you act, no matter how kindly you act, no matter how loving you act, no matter how much great sex you have, or great conversations, or whatever, you're not really with anyone. You're in your own personal drama.
So when you start to come out of that, if you've done enough sadhana—spiritual practice—that sense of your immersion in your karma starts to fade and you start to actually look up and see—
Wait a minute!
And then maybe you notice that other people are suffering. When you really first start to see other people's things that they go through—wow, it's wild!
I remember I went to a friend of mine when I was first waking up to all this, and I said—Wow, I just sit there and look at people and they're just going like this [gestures] running these fixations in circles. And he was like—Yep.
It was crazy! I couldn't believe it. Because before I'd just been so involved in my own little circle, I didn't even notice. [laughs]
But that's when the possibility of kindness arises—when you start to actually feel other people and see them and see them as being related to you. And we're all in the same boat. We're all having a similar experience just to different degrees.
So that's where kindness comes from, that empathy. Then you don't have to show off or be elaborate or make some big banner waving gesture about how kind and compassionate and empathetic you are because you're a spiritual practitioner. [laughs] I'm pulling a few people's chains right now. [laughs]
In this culture, we're just so beset by this fixation about being important. It's just a disease in our culture. We can't do anything without hoping that someone else notices how great it is.
We can’t do—we can barely even get up in the morning without wanting to be admired for how well we got out of bed. [laughs] Here, I'll take a selfie of me getting out of bed—post it on Facebook. How many likes did I get for how I got out of bed this morning?
This is what waking up looks like. [laughs]
As Ma told me this morning, it's perfectly okay to be invisible. It's okay to not work at making other people see you a certain way. You can just stop doing that.
Think of how much effort we put into that. All that work to make other people see us a certain way. My God, we spend all of our waking hours, if not our sleeping hours, also doing that. It's an orgy of manipulation of image. And it's so incredibly effortful.
You know what? It's okay if other people don't see you the way you want to be seen. It's just okay. You don't have to do anything about that. You don't have to correct other people's view of you.
This is what Ma told me this morning.
Save that energy for doing your sadhana, for reading a book, for having a meal with a friend.
What would it feel like if we just stopped trying to fix everyone's view of us? Phew.
People misunderstand what we're doing? Fine. Somebody thinks they're better than us? Fine. Somebody completely misunderstands what we just said? Fine.
Cool, right? Really, who cares? Someone doesn't really know who we are? We don't get recognition for something we did that we think is great?
Like Ma said, it's okay to be invisible—under the radar.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.