Learning to Follow Wisdom

Walking in Nature
December 1, 2021

As practitioners, our job is to discern what wisdom is asking us to do and follow that. A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi

If we're talking about the View, and of course, what I've said about the View is that we should remember it. And how do we use View teachings? View teachings are very, very important in all of the direct realization traditions.

They tell us about what is the View of the self that we discover through practice? What is the nature of reality that we discover through practice? All kinds of—how does reality work? How do we fit into it? All the things that we learn through practice.

So View is not philosophy. View is discovered through the process of doing sadhana and grace.

So, we have View teachings, but View teachings, properly given, are given in a transmission situation. So properly you would be given View teachings by someone who has realized something about the View in their own experience, not just from somebody who read it in a book or even worse, made it up.

So that's the sense in which it's not philosophy. It's not something that you can study in a book and that's it. That's the best way to approach it.

So we do study. We do read words, and we do listen to the words of the teacher. We're not rejecting that.

But the idea is that it would land, it would land in your heart. And then through sadhana you would discover and make that View your own. So the idea is that we come to live the View or embody the View through our sadhana. It becomes our own knowledge, our own knowledge of the self.

So with that in mind, when we talk about intention, if we talk about it in an ordinary way, intention implies, like I'm setting an intention. And now I am going to as an individual use my will and my intellect to put this intention into practice.

And what might that intention be coming from? Well, it could be coming from a lot of different places.

So we are immersed in multiple Views—Views of whatever cultures we grew up in, the Views of whatever spiritual traditions we grew up in. The View of our family and our family history.

These are all more or less coherent and incoherent forms of View that we already embody.

So if the View that we are operating with says, success in human life means this, there is one version of success. I am going to make this kind of money. I am going to live this kind of lifestyle, and I'm going to have this kind of relationship with another person and possibly children.

So if we have grown up with that View, which many human beings have, and we embody that View, and then we set an intention related to that View, it may or may not be in sync with the View of our wisdom heart.

So it may be a set of ways to live and desired goals in life and desired achievements that we have never really examined. Do we really want this? Is this really in line with how we want to live our lives or not?

Many, many people, if not the majority, just do that and they set goals, and it all seems very reasonable because that's what everybody else is doing.

So there's that kind of intention where the View that we're operating from might even be unconscious. We might not even realize that it is a View. We may have naturalized that View to such a degree that we think it's like part of the directive of nature that we must live in a certain way and set certain kinds of intentions. And if we don't, we're going against nature.

Think of the View of women for most of human history in most countries, not all, women's job is to have children. That's a View.

So it's a very powerful View to the extent that many, many women—and it really doesn't matter how feminist they are, or whatever, many women feel badly about themselves if they can't have children, or if they have no one to have children with, or if they actually don't want to have children, they feel ashamed.

So this is the result of embodied View [it’s] that we have a lot of embodied feelings about intentions that we may set or may think we should set. And some of those View may appear to us internally as natural and right and good. And then if we don't actually want to do those things, we feel badly.

Then there is intention that's informed by wisdom. Each of us shows up in a unique dimension. This is a brilliant phrase that my Dzogchen teacher used all the time to describe the aspect of how we show up that's unique different from everyone else.

I mean, even though we share things with other people, there's no two people that have the same mandala of expressions. Everybody has a unique mandala of expressions, infinitely unique mandal of expressions, even though we are all on another level, totally equal.

So anyway, we show up. We have lifetimes of karma and lifetimes of things that are coming into this phenomena from all kinds of other lives, and then it coalesces in this form of body, energy and mind that we're experiencing right now—our human life.

And so within that unique constellation, there could be many cultures, many desires. Maybe there was sadhana done in other lifetimes, and in a sense, as practitioners, our job is to find out what our wisdom heart wants us to do and follow that.

This is our job as practitioners, particularly. We are wanting to discover a real, living, livewire relationship with that wisdom heart—the fountain of wisdom that is manifesting inside of us, and everywhere we discover, and we want to connect to that and feel what it is asking us to do in the form of our longing.

A large aspect of how wisdom shows up in us is through longing, what we really yearn for. And sometimes that is in line with conventional cultural mores, either in part or wholly. And sometimes it's not, right?

And it also might change in manifestation at different points in our lifetime.

So if we want to live in the most relaxed, productive, joyous way possible, given that we are in samsara, so we're not always going to be joyful—but if we want to live the best expressions that we can according to our unique dimension—how we showed up—then we have to find out a way, how to tap into that wisdom heart, and we have to follow it with courage, persistence and surrender. And a kind of a come what may attitude.

Ma had a famous vakya, a famous saying, Why worry? Ma is here.

And she meant, if you tap into that Ma, that wisdom, why worry? If that's what you're following, why worry? If you're following that deepest longing, then you're doing your best as a human being. End of conversation.

You couldn't be doing any better than that. Absolutely tip top.

So that might take us in conventional ways. It might take us out of conventional ways. It might cause us to do things that are unexpected by other people or even ourselves. It might cause us to follow along in other ways.

I mean, it's a very varied experience. It's not just one thing.

So intention, in the best possible case, intention is going to arise naturally out of that appreciation for and connection with the wisdom heart that shows up as our own longing. We are going to develop a natural intention based on the living impulse of wisdom within ourselves.

And you started off talking, I think if I can remember that far back because I've been going on for a while, you mentioned something about intention with relating to all these different spheres of human life, and that we could set these intentions and be independent in some way.

We don't have that much control. That is a fantasy. That is a fantasy of control.

So our life is stumbling. That is the nature of our lives as human beings. We go along doing our best, trying to hear the voice of wisdom, trying to follow it more or less successfully, and letting grace take care of the rest.

Our power here is mighty if we hook into our real desire, but it isn't controlling. It's not controlling. Our desire hooks us into a collaboration with wisdom, if you can understand that.

My experience as a practitioner is, the more sincerity, the more courage, I can drag out of myself—the courage to follow that wisdom that's manifesting as me—the more help I get, spiritually speaking.

So, we are developing a collaboration with wisdom, showing up as circumstances, showing up as teachers, showing up as opportunities, even showing up as calamities. And we are never in the driver's seat of our own life. That isn't the point of it.

The point of it is to get in the river and go along with wisdom, not knowing what's going to be around the next bend. But having confidence, Ma is here, why worry? I'm doing the best I can, even though I make mistakes.

And I often quote a teacher that I only sat with once but really had a profound impact on me—Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, a Kagyu teacher, and he's famous for singing doha songs of realization, and he has some really beautiful dohas—he said, “Mistaking, mistaking, I travel the unmistaking path.”

That even though we come and go as Ma said, “Coming and going, the thing will be done.” Coming and going means getting it right, not getting it right. Following wisdom, then not following wisdom, following wisdom again, then not following wisdom.

That's what she meant by coming and going. Or coming in and out of contact with our own wisdom or The wisdom—she said, coming and going, the thing will be done. That's our path, it's coming and going. Or mistaking, mistaking.

But if we have sincerity in that desire to follow wisdom and some kernel, some pearl of confidence in that wisdom—absolutely necessary—even a drop or a speck of confidence in it will carry us through. And we can have confidence in ourselves that we're doing our best, even when we make mistakes.

So this dream of command, control and capture, we should throw out. That's also the colonialist dream. You don't want that.

Don't follow the colonialist within.

We're yielding. We're being with Ma. We're going along. She's holding her hand like a little child and little children stumble along the way. But we have to keep holding her hand. She's the wisdom.

It takes courage to do this, no doubt about it. It's not easy, but it gets easier. The more that you follow wisdom, the easier it gets, because you develop more confidence.

You learn about the process. You learn about the ups and downs and the ins and outs of it. You learn to feel the response of wisdom to your sincerity. Sincerity is 100% the game.

This is why honesty is so important. Honesty is an aspect of sincerity.

So to follow up with that, is the desire, like what's the desire? Anything we want?

Well, there's one desire in all of existence and that desire can be enlightened, or it can be very squished down and mutilated.

So it can be enlightened desire, and it can be very, very limited desire, which we call compulsion. Compulsion’s a kind of desire.

But if you think about it, think about some time when you really wanted to eat a certain thing, and then think about another time when you really wanted to be with a certain person. Those are the same feeling. One is just stronger than the other, or maybe has some other body parts mixed in. But the actual desire is the same. The desire is the same.

So, Lord Shiva's desire is infinite, but it's objectless. It's objectless. It has no goal. It is like this pure impulse of self expression—iccha shakti. Pure desire to just overflow with the creation without any object. So that's enlightened desire.

And then we have all kinds of other desires that are on a continuum with that, as that desire is self-limited by the Lord in order to produce all these wacky unique dimensions.

So we might have someone who only loves one being, like their cat or their dog, and only eats food that's white. Some people only eat white food. That's very limited desire.

Then you have other people very, very compulsive, gambling or doing whatever they do—that's another kind of desire, mistaking the means, right? Mistaking the means.

Everybody wants the same thing, no matter how limited their desire is. Everybody wants continuity, connection with something. Everyone wants a feeling of fulfillment. But they mistake the upaya. They mistake the means.

So what happens as you become less limited? Or maybe you were born less limited, or you do some sadhana, then your desire begins to find a proper vehicle for eventually moving more toward this objectless desire. So you may go from desiring fancy cars and thinking that having a giant retirement fund is the thing, to desiring teachings, or desiring to be with your teacher, or desiring to discover more about life.

I mean, that's the desire that I came in was the desire to find out what is happening here. It was like this roaring desire. I didn't know anything about spirituality or sadhana or anything. I didn't grow up in that environment, but I had this roaring desire to just find out what the heck's going on here.

So that kind of desire is a little less limited than some of the other ones I mentioned, and it led me to be on this path. So the path is not about denying desire, it's about liberating desire so that we can find the proper vehicle to realize the nature of the self.

Without desire, nothing can happen. Nothing. Desire is the strongest force in human life. Absolutely, without a doubt.

No teacher, no guru, no matter how enlightened, can make one person do one thing. If that were the case, we'd have many enlightened people. But there's no teacher who has ever been able to make anyone do anything they didn't want to do.

And that's really important for students, because we live in a culture very different from ancient India, where most of these traditions came from, and in our culture here in the US, to desire to follow a tradition or a teacher is considered very weird and possibly dangerous and suspicious. Many people are suspicious of their own desire to do that.

But when we understand that everything you do is because you want to or you don't want to, then you can be more responsible for the choices you make. Even the bad choices.


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