Radical Respect

Water MIrroring Sky
June 2, 2021

Does the project of earning respect make sense in light of the View of Trika Shaivism? What is respect, for reals? A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi

Hey, earning someone's respect, is that real? Does it happen? Is it important?

How does it work in our tradition to— I have to earn the respect, or someone has to earn my respect? Can you riff on that for me? Because I'm confused about that.

Well, the absolute teaching is, of course, that everyone is of absolutely equal value.

Recognizing that is tantamount to enlightenment, or some version of that.

Recognizing and living in, embodying the equality of all phenomena, which means that you would have already encountered the fundamental nature of reality.

And you would have recognized through your own senses that every being, every object, every circumstance, every world has equality. Because they're all created by and made of the same self-aware subject. The supreme Self.

So although everything has a completely unique dimension and we are living in a massive upsurge in— of diversity, every single thing that is happening, every circumstance we're in, no matter how wonderful or horrible, every person and how much we like them or don't like them has total equality.

And on that basis, if we were hooked up to that experience first-hand, if we really embodied it, we would have fundamental respect for every being.

And that would show up as kind of working with people in a way and relating to people in a way that if someone doesn't want to dance, we don't try to dance with them.

That's a fundamental aspect of respect. Someone doesn't want to dance the way we dance, we let them dance their own way.

That's a fundamental aspect of respect.

That being said, very, very few people on the planet are having that experience of the fundamental equality of all phenomena.

And so then we have to go to the relative view of respect. And the relative view of respect means that we take responsibility for how we are showing up.

And we don't expect other people to be the source of our happiness or of us having a good life.

I'm just talking about practitioners, right?

So, for instance, let's say somebody is in a marriage and one of the partners in the marriage agrees to work while the other partner goes to medical school.

And they get in a lot of debt. You know, medical school is very long. You spend four years in school, then you have a long residence, multiple year residency.

Then maybe you have a specialist training. And it goes on for a while. [laughs] So a lot of debt is piled up.

And the person who's working has a narrative running that they've put their life on hold for the other person. At some point they get very, very angry.

They start to build up resentment about that. This isn't an uncommon situation.

And so then they basically feel that that other person caused them to choose certain things, caused them to give up certain things, caused them to miss out on certain things.

This is the antithesis of respect [laughs], and the antithesis of responsibility.

So in this tradition, 'respect,' we mean we take responsibility for how we're responding to things.

And we work with other people with an underlying attitude of kindness, even if we're angry. Because there's you know, obviously we get angry at each other. There's reasons to be angry.

There's an underlying desire for the well-being of everyone.

And that is how we act respectfully in an ordinary but good ordinary way. Where even if we're angry, we still have a feeling of we want the well-being of the other person.

And we haven't created a situation where we're saying that the other person has caused how we are reacting to things.

So it takes a lot, a lot, a lot of maturity to relate to people this way. A lot of maturity.

Because our culture is a Christianized culture. Doesn't matter what religion you're from or no religion, we live in a Christianized culture.

And it operates on an axis of reward and punishment, of blame and praise. And we are just completely saturated in this. Completely saturated.

So it seems absolutely normal to blame other people to— to chase after praise, and to say that somebody else was causing us to feel a certain way.

This is completely normal and considered justifiable.

No other way to think about it. No other— no other way to be. But from the perspective of a practitioner, everything is God showing up, however it's showing up.

Everything is that Self, showing up in some particular way.

And everything is completely saturated with wisdom.

So anything that's happening is happening in such a way that if we're attuned to it, we can plug into the wisdom of that situation.

And we can use it to grow and to open our hearts.

So I guess I would say in a nutshell that respect for other people has two aspects.

One is respecting their unique dimension, that everybody has a unique dimension and that's just the way it is.

And everybody has a complete and one hundred percent right to show up, however they're showing up. Even if we hate it.

It doesn't mean we can't change things. It doesn't mean we can't work with people and collaborate to change things, right?

But if someone doesn't want to change, that's that, you know, that's just that.

And then, the second part is, doing the very deep and hard work of remaining open-hearted no matter what's happening.

The very deep and hard work of remaining open-hearted and feeling that feeling of kindness, which is basically wanting the best for everyone and having that inform your actions.

This is very hard work because we have a lot of karmic patterns that pull us in a different direction.

Where we want to be defensive, or we want to be hurting somebody else. You know, there's all kinds of things that we do.

But as practitioners, if we are practicing, then we really want to find a way into a feeling of kindness and wanting the best for everyone in every circumstance.

No matter who they are and no matter how much we think they're horrible. [laughter]

And again, this is very hard work. The— one of, one of the principal male disciples of my guru, he wrote something toward the end of his life.

He said, 'you know, we can recognize God in everything, but then we have to do something much harder. We have to reconcile ourselves to other people.' [laughs] Right?

This is hard minute-by-minute work that we do every day. It requires tremendous empathy.

It requires setting yourself aside to see the value and beauty in everyone, even when we don't like their behavior.

And to think about the well-being of other people and how we can support that.

And that could be by not being there too, you know? [laughs] But that's respect, that's respect.

Respect is so much deeper than acceptance. You know, acceptance is a position of privilege. Flat out 'I set myself up, I'm going to be the one that accepts you.'

It's a position where you're saying you have some privileged position of accepting something or not accepting something.

But respect is a position of equality. Respect is a gesture of equality.

So this will be open satsang now and you can ask any question you like, say anything you like. Rant. Pontificate. Whatever you like, about anything.

I have a follow-up on respect. So my mom has cancer. It's kind of new.

And it dawned on me what I feel so uneasy about during a retreat, which is if something goes wrong, I can't trust that my dad is going to step up and like, like the whole thing about someone dying alone.

He, you know, if the rule is that she had to be alone, he would just be griping about it, but he'd just go along with it, I assume.

And so in light of respect, I would just let them be and....

Well, respect doesn't mean we just let everyone be to wreak havoc on everything. [laughter]

Look, I said […]. I mean, what I said is, you know, the great gesture of human life is alliance.

We can ally with each other. We can work with each other. We can challenge each other, right?

We can try to share our love and concern and kindness with other people. And get stuff done, from that perspective.

We can intervene. But what I'm talking about is doing all that with a feeling of kindness.

Whether we're being fierce or gentle, doing it with a feeling of kindness.

And then when the situation is intractable, knowing that everyone has a right to their unique dimension.

So if you called up your mom and dad and said—I'm worried about this, I'm going to come for the surgery to make sure you have someone there.

And your mom said—Absolutely not. I don't want you to.

You know, and you said—But mom, X, Y, Z, I feel this. I really want to be there.

Nope, nope. Don't want you here. Sorry.—You know, then you just have to drop it. That's respect.

Even though it makes you very uneasy. But if your mom said—Oh, my God, I'm so glad you offered.—That's a different story.

All right. So I've got to engage.


Which is one of my things that I don't like to do.



You know, when we get more open in our senses, we can feel a texture of like, is it possible to engage? Will someone even receive what we're offering?

Do they even want it?

You know, this is part of lack of respect, is trying to give people things they don't want. [laughs] Right?

Because you want to give it or you want to hook them in in some way. Right? So this is all very subtle and we get better at it as we go along.

So just do your best. [laughs]

I would love if you could explain why, going back to the topic of respect and any insights on when we find ourselves out of integrity or out of showing that.

Mm hmm. So one of the things that this tradition is really big on is direct experience.

So there are other kinds of spiritual traditions where someone would ask a question like that and then the answer would be something like—think about this, and think about that, and think and maybe change your thoughts in some way.

And we're not really big on that. We're big on actually changing how we feel about things in a kind of direct way.

So the way that we address that is through doing some kind of spiritual practice where we can have an experience of our own inherent value and then recognize that in other people.

And then there are certain symbols that we can use that directly remind us that we have this eternal value and so does everyone else.

One of those very basic practices that's easy to do is— is a meditation on what's called the golden egg or the golden womb. And it's an image of a really beautiful little golden shining egg or orb in the center of your chest.

It's a very old, a very ancient kind of meditation. And there's a couple different versions of it on the website.

There's one that has a breath practice you can do before you start. And it's— you'll see it's called breath immersion in the golden egg.

So I would recommend starting there.

And even if you only do it a few times, you're still going to get a kind of a taste of what it might mean to be standing in front of somebody, having lost a sense of their value momentarily, as we are all subject to do.

And to— to feel that golden egg inside of you and see it in somebody else, too.

So this is called a living symbol. The golden egg is a living symbol. It's something that is intimately related to our incarnation as human beings.

I mean, we don't really have a golden egg inside of us, but when we practice this way and we use this living symbol, we can have an immediate shift in our body, energy, and mind. When we recall it, when we're in some kind of circumstance, when we're out and about in the world.

So have a look at that and try it a few times. And if you like it, you can keep doing it every day.

But even if you only try it a few times, try to invoke it when you're in one of these circumstances like you just described.

See how that changes your— how you're showing up in that circumstance.

Instead of going through some thought process about, well, what should I say? And what would be better? And etc., which is just kind of performing something, right?

We want to like get to something that we can actually feel. And that's what the golden egg is for, among many other tools that we have. But that's a very easy one to gain access to.

It's on the meditation page on the website. It's also on Insight Timer, if you've ever used that. It's a meditation app.

I just have a quick question in regards to the respect talk, when talking and thinking about self-respect.

A lot of what you're talking about, I find that it's not very difficult for me to go outside of my— myself, and see the value of each person or experience or situation.

But I have an interest in what you think about self-respect. And is that really a concept applied to giving yourself empathy?

Absolutely. First and foremost. First and foremost.

So if we look at another person and say I respect you because, you know, because you've done this and you haven't done that. Because you've achieved this or some other thing.

And I don't respect myself because I think I'm a failure. [laughs] Or something like that.

But I respect you because you've done all these things, or you're nice or kind or something. Great kids, or whatever. All of those things are impermanent.

Those things do not have anything much to do with that indestructible sense of value that we're trying to get in touch with.

And so you can't have that kind of respect for everyone, regardless of circumstance if you don't feel that in yourself.

So the golden egg meditation is first and foremost a practice of discovering that in yourself. And then—Oh, yeah, everyone else is exactly like that. Right?

The kind of respect I’m talking about doesn’t depend on circumstances.

The kind of respect that depends on circumstances is what has to be earned. Right?

And then, of course, the minute you don’t live up to my expectations or my— my list of what I think is respectable behavior, you’re out of here and I don’t respect you anymore. [laughs]

I don't know about you guys. I'm just not interested in that kind of relationship.

I get it. I get why people are in that condition. I get why they think that way.

And I feel sympathy for that. But to me, there's nothing at all reliable about that. Right?

If someone comes up to me and says—oh, Shambhavi, I really respect you because X, Y, Z, or the other.

I know that they have a secret list. And this week I check all their boxes, but next week I'm going to fall out of favor. [laughs]

So I don't want to work that hard. I like relationships that are easy in that very quiet underground river kind of way where you just feel that respect is always going to be there, that love is always going to be there no matter what you do.

That's the kind of love that we're— and respect that we are trying to experience for ourselves and everyone else in this kind of tradition.

Tangent off of that...

Tangent as a verb. I love it.

Tangent as a verb. [laughter] Um, I'm just thinking about attraction and the kind of respect that, well the kind that you earn. In my experience, has felt like what leads to attraction or is at least an ingredient of attraction.

And people, like, I could recognize the value in someone's unique dimension and— but they could have that checklist you're talking about.

They don't [laughs] you know, like they get certain things, and I don't respect them in that earned respect kind of way.

And then I don't want to sleep with them or be with them or something like that.

Why do you have to disrespect someone just because they don't meet your checklist?

Why can't you just say I don't want to be around them? Or I'm not attracted to them? Why do you have to actually disrespect them?

Um, I don't know that disrespect... it's like lose respect for which I guess means disrespect...

Or lose respect for...

Ok, so lose respect for them, because they're not handling their life.



That's God showing up as someone who's not handling their life.

You know, really, for those who are really committed to this kind of tradition, you don't get to give yourself that out.

You don't get to give yourself that gift of being able to say, I am handling my life. They're not handling their life.

It's just one consciousness showing up in all these different costumes, playing all these different parts.

So we don't get to disrespect or un-respect or lose respect for anybody, period.

We do, however, get to make powerful choices about who we spend time with, who we give our energy to, who we have dinner with, who we sleep with, etc.

We get to make those choices based on practical, nonjudgmental considerations about what our life is really about and how we want to use our energy.

For instance, when I was in my early 20s, I dated a drug addict. And now I really wouldn't want to lose my energy to someone who was a drug addict. [laughs] You know, things have changed.

I'm making more— decisions with more clarity now, right?

So we get to decide functionally, not moralistically or ethically or based on what we think a good career path is or what handling one's life looks like.

We get to make decisions based on how we want to live, to safeguard our energy and to live the kind of life we want to live.

There's no reason to lose respect for anybody else. There's no reason that holds water.

Thank you.

There really is no other kind of respect, other than the respect for someone's essential value.

Everything else is conditional and is always haunted by the shadow of losing respect. I mean, really, what— of what value is that at all?

It's just of no value.

When we say we want someone to earn something from us, earn our love, earn our respect, earn our kindness, or earn our whatever, we're basically saying I want you to be attached to me.

And this is the only way I know how to make you attach to me. It's just one of those ways that human beings attach themselves to other human beings.

And, of course, those are all parts of realm vision, karmic realm vision. We all want to be connected. We all want to be connected.

So we— but we do it in various ways, some of which are very limited.

And hooking someone by saying you have to earn my respect and making them run around like a hamster in a cage, as practitioners we can recognize that as an attempt to connect.

It's an attempt to keep a connection. And we can feel sympathy for that.

But we don't have to live our lives according to someone else's karmas.

And also, I just want to acknowledge that the way that I'm talking right now is very radical.

Not in and of itself, but just in comparison to how everybody, you know, just our normal culture thinks about things.

So I think this is not the normal way to approach it.

When someone says you have to earn my respect. Or you've lost my respect and you have to get it back. To say—No, actually, I don't want it back. [laughter] But love you anyway. And I'm still willing to connect with you, but not going to run around the hamster cage with you.

You know, that's pretty radical.


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