Sweetness, Sincerity, and Nourishment

October 5, 2022

Shambhavi talks about the inherently sweet taste of life and how sincerity in practice leads to real nourishment. A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi

So tonight I actually pulled a quote to talk about. Tonight is a festival called Sharad, which we don't normally celebrate. But it's the full moon in the Indian month of Ashwini. It celebrates the heart harvest and the sweetness of life.

The most important thing that's being celebrated and remember here is rasa. Rasa means taste in a very, very ordinary sense. But it also, in a more esoteric sense, means the sweetness of life. The sweet taste of life.

In this tradition and others, the fundamental taste of existence is said to be sweet. Now, you may think the fundamental taste of existence sucks, [laughter] but that's because we are experiencing some limitations at the moment.

When we are a little bit more awake, we experience more of the rasa, of the sweet taste. Rasa also relates, specifically in Trika Shaivism, to the aesthetic sweet taste of things. In other words, the beauty. The taste of beauty.

Or you can say it's sort of a metaphor, because we don't actually eat beauty. But our senses are digesting beautiful things. And this reality is the play of the Lord. So when we're less limited, everything here appears to have this quality of aesthetic wonder, aesthetic beauty.

And this is said to be rasa, the sweet taste of everything. Not just because there's some kind of essential goodness, but because there's beauty. There's this glamorous display happening of the city of duality.

So this, of course, is what we come more into the more we practice. We suffer less. And the rasa, the sweet taste and the aesthetic qualities of everything, come more into view.

So this is something that Ma wrote: "In the world, everybody's mad about something or other. Some more, some to a lesser extent. See God's play, lila, [God's sport or play] is so enjoyable. He has created a madhouse. Try to find yourself through yourself. They say, even in the midst of this lila [this madhouse], oneness remains unimpaired. What is enjoyed in lila [in this play of the Lord] is rasa, which is unique."

When she says it's unique, she means it's the sweet taste without an opposite. Only when we're more limited in our sense perceptions, in our mind, do we find anything here that is not something to be appreciated and enjoyed.

That's one of the many, many ways we can talk about self-realization, that we are appreciating everything. And the kind of appreciation, according to Trika Shaivism specifically, is this very profound aesthetic appreciation and appreciation for the magic of everything.

In fact, this is very explicit. I'm not making up these words like magic and glamour. These are words that are specifically used in the Trika tradition to talk about the display of duality. These are also words that are used in Dzogchen.

So it's a common thread here, where this whole existence is said to be the glamour of the Lord. Where glamour means both glamorous and magic. There's an older use of the word glamour, where, like I say, I glamour you meaning I put a spell on you. Something like that.

And then the idea of this world being an ornament or a jewel or a dazzling city. All of these are different kinds of metaphors that are used to try to describe how we experience life when we're more awake. When we're less limited in our sense perceptions.

So when that happens, we have this rasa which is unique. It is a sweet taste without an opposite. Everything tastes the same way, right? Ekarasa, one taste, the taste of the sweetness of existence.

And this is what is being celebrated today, on this full moon. And also, in a concrete way, the harvest that we bring in. The bounty, the abundance of the world in providing food for us. [laughs] So that's the very concrete, down to earth, what is being celebrated.

And then the rasa that is sort of more conventional throughout India, as I understand Sharad, this night, is the play of Radha and Krishna. Which is celebrating that joyfulness and sweetness and love and playfulness that is in the center of everything.

And of course, Lord Krishna is the ultimate trickster. And that trickster kind of quality is really built into this life where we are being played with, in a sense, and led like lambs to the slaughter. But it's a good slaughter. [laughs] Our egos are being led like lambs to the slaughter.

So that we can release them and release ourselves. To be free, to enjoy and to play. To sport, like Krishna does. These are all different ways of talking about the same celebration of this playful, sweet, glamorous, magical, trickster-ish quality of existence itself.

Can I say that glamour/magic reminds me of that practice with Shiva, where we visualize that mountain that has all those jewels. And lotus in the heart that has even more subtle jewels. It's like a symbol for everything, actually. That everything is made of the subtle jewels.

Yeah, think about those electron microscope photographs of the interiors of cells. It's like some fantastical science-fiction city. So beautiful and so detailed.

And then you go deeper, and there's just more layers and layers of complexity and structure and color and form. Absolutely gorgeous. From the most open sky to the tiniest little thing. And just like infinite layers of things. It's phenomenal.

I was thinking about the mountain, too, when you were talking and how it definitely, for me, evokes magic. Not so much sweetness. I wondered if you could talk about that. Like the jewel-like quality of reality related to sweetness.

I think that we can make that connection better when we're doing something with less form. When we're just resting in the heart space. And there's a quality of space that has that dazzlingness of jewel-likeness.

And maybe you're not experiencing that yet, but you will. There's a visual quality to everything, that's like made of teeny-weeny little jewels everywhere. So for me, personally, seeing the mountain of jewels is sort of like a gargantuan version of that.

Like when you look in a dark room at night and you just see all those little specks of light. Those, to me are very jewel-like. And they're not just a visual phenomenon, they are an aspect of presence.

And so to me, that quality of virtue and wisdom and jewel-like appearance are inseparable. It's not how are they connected, it's just like they are the same thing. And I think, for me anyway, it's easier to see that just in space or in the space of the heart.

But those jewels are an extrapolation from that jewel-like light quality of space element which is permeating everything. And I think in the beginning and the the middle, if there could be even such a thing before one has a fuller experience of presence.

Sometimes we can relate to things as sort of energetic phenomenon or visual phenomenon. And we just experience them like that, as if they were more flat. They didn't have intelligence imbued in them.

But eventually everything becomes imbued with that intelligence. With that compassion. With all those virtues. Like every phenomenon. Our own energy, anything that we encounter.

And then it's like the question doesn't really even exist, how are they connected. That's what they are. But it's very natural from what I've seen, from people's practices, and my own practice.

To kind of relate to things in a more physical way at first. And then something shifts eventually where, oh, that is just completely imbued with awakeness.

And it just hit me that realization was kind of a harvest, a sort of fruition.

It is definitely a fruition. That's a great reminder that when we practice, we talk about the fruits of our practice. That we're harvesting these fruits. That's a good thing to remember.

The other thing that occurs to me with that is, the right cucumber picked from the vine.

Yeah. The Mahamrityunjaya, "urvārukam iva bandhanān." This idea that we want to be taken, in a sense, for awakeness while we still have lots of juice. When we're at our peak. Basically like, don't wait until I'm a shriveled, old half-dead thing.

So there's this weird image that pretty much strikes everybody as weird, at first. Please pick me like a ripe cucumber from the vine, meaning harvest me while I'm juicy. That's how I've always taken it, anyway.

I was just thinking of something else, too. When you said about the cucumber and the juiciness. I think that maybe you talked about this before, making ourselves taste good to God.


What's that recipe again? [laughter]

Well, the number one ingredient is ten cups of sincerity. [laughter] And when I say sincerity, that word has a lot packed into it. Because it means we're being sober and honest with ourselves.

We're not fooling ourselves. We're willing to really look at ourselves. We're not manipulating anyone else. We're being honest. We're determined to be that. Sincerity, it's a very concentrated power.

Think of anything that you have said recently to anyone. To yourself or to anyone else. That inside, as you were saying it, there was a tiny little voice going, I know that's bullshit. [laughs] Right?

But you just go right on because it's conventionally okay? That's lack of sincerity. [laughs] Or you say something in a voice that is meant to imply that you know what you're talking about. But inside there's a little quiet voice going, I have no idea what I'm talking about. That's insincerity.

I'm just bringing these things up because they're just so ubiquitous. So common in our culture. So accepted.

I have a question. When you're talking about spaciousness. I've been thinking a lot about the opposite of that, which I think is codependency.

Well, spaciousness and codependency aren't opposite. Space element cannot be reduced to the opposite of codependency. [laughs] Codependency is a way of looking at ourselves that's extremely recent. And space element is eternal and it encompasses a lot of different things.

But we could say that any kind of contraction or limitation on our way of perceiving things is in some sense a step down from fully experiencing spaciousness. But that's like a much bigger conversation.

Codependency is, from what I understand, I'm a little bit out of my lane here, just to be perfectly sincere. I know about it just from being a human at this time in this country. But it's not really the way that I normally talk about things.

So from my perspective, as limited as it may be, codependency is a transactional way of relating. So it's based on a feeling that you wouldn't be loved if you didn't service someone else's needs. But yet the bargain is, I service your needs and then you have to love me.

Of course, when you're in that condition of not feeling that you're valuable enough to be loved and you set up this kind of transactional relationship. Generally when people are doing this, they have in their mind a specific set of responses that they're looking for that would prove that they are loved.

So let's say hypothetically, there are ten kinds of things that my partner or mom or whomever, ten things they could do that I would accept as being proof of love. But if their ways of expressing love are eleven and twelve, you're kind of out of luck. Because you're not going to see those things.

It's kind of like subjecting someone to a contract that they haven't signed on for. You never actually can resolve the problem of feeling unlovable in that way. It just won't work.

So there's a lot of push/pull and contention and unhappiness in relationships that have this dynamic. Because basically no one's getting what they want. And things are being offered and not received. That's also painful for the other person.

If someone does sincerely love you, but you've got your list and they're not meeting everything on your list but they're doing other things that you're not recognizing, then that can be really painful also. And there's just no end to it, really, because it isn't actually the resolution that the person is seeking.

So we call this more something in the realm of hungry ghost karmic realm vision, which is one of the teachings from Indian epic literature and Tibetan Buddhism. Six big categories of how humans interact and lose contact with presence. And with their own essence nature, with their own value.

And so codependency would fall into that swab that we call hungry ghost. And the interesting thing about that is that each of the realms has a certain definition, or a certain sort of like working concept of how life is.

And the working concept of hungry ghost realm is life is not nourishing, and I'm upset about it. That's the working concept. Life is not nourishing, and I'm upset about it. So someone in this condition is actually not trying to have it be resolved.

They're actually trying to prove that their working concept is correct. And this creates a lot of issues. Because someone's trying to satisfy you, but your real goal is to remain dissatisfied so that you can keep reiterating how unnourishing life is. [laughs]

So no matter what anyone does, you'll always be disappointed or find some fault, or find that there's something lacking. And that just goes on and on and on.

The solution to that, to start being more sincere and noticing when you feel nourished. Starting to put attention on moments when you feel nourished. Like after eating a beautiful meal, or hearing beautiful music, or seeing a beautiful work of art, or having a nice time with a friend, or being out in nature.

Like, stop and let yourself feel that you actually are capable of feeling nourishment. And it will go against everything that you're trying to prove. So it will take effort to do that because you really want something else.

You want someone to say, oh, poor baby, you're right. Things just so suck and you're right about everything. So it's really difficult to turn that around and say, oh, right now I feel satisfied. Oh, look, I felt satisfied six times today in spite of myself. But it's a good thing to do.

And also meditating on melted ghee. That's a very esoteric practice that's recommended in some very ancient texts to do. Ghee being one of the living symbols of very deep nourishment.

But there has to be a kind of determination there. That you are going to change this and a recognition of what the structure of it actually is.

If we're just remaining at the level of the conceptual framework of hungry ghost realm, then your solution for being faced with someone who's not living up to your expectations is going to be to find someone else who will. But that's just like a horizontal move, because you're always going to find reasons why everyone falls short.

So you can't stay on that horizontal plane just like hop, skipping between one situation and another. That doesn't work. You have to change the terms of your concept to, yes, things suck, because sometimes they really do. But you have to start to give yourself opportunities to recognize the fundamental nourishment of life.

Because ultimately, if you think life is disappointing and people are disappointing, and this is an un-nourishing place to be, you're actually wrong. [laughter] So you're living out a wrong thing for your life, and you don't want to be doing that.

But we do have ordinary moments every day when we can experience even small bits of nourishment. And what the texts say about these very small moments of nourishment is, when you feel content like this in ordinary way, then you are being more like Lord Shiva because he's enjoying everything.

It's also said, in case anyone's feeling singled out, that this pattern is part of all the other realm visions, too. There's this feeling of lack in each one of them. But it's just that the hungry ghost is a fuller version of that.

It's a fuller version of conceptually defining everything as not filling. And just trying to declare that over and over and over and over again. That's why they call it a ghost. Because ghosts just have one thing they want to say, maybe two.

I don't know. The ghosts I've met only ever had one thing that they wanted to say. The hungry ghost is like, not enough, not enough, not enough. Just like that, over and over and over again. No matter what's happening.

Each realm can always find evidence to prove itself, right? We can always cherry pick evidence that whatever way we're seeing things is the right way. And that's why having a sense of humor and a sense of self-irony is absolutely critical.

Because that's where you can kind of step back a little bit and laugh at your own evidence gathering. If you can't do that, if you're convinced that your evidence is actually evidence, you're just not ready to let go of it. Or work on it, really.

You have to be able to just go, oh, my God, I'm being so ridiculous. [laughs] Even if it's very painful one moment, in the next moment, you have to be able to laugh at it a little bit.

That's evidence of a little bit of distance and ability to reflect. And also, like, denaturalizing that realm vision. If I'm really in it, it all seems natural and right and everyone should just agree with me. Because I'm right, and you're completely wrong.

But when we've got more distance on it, it starts to seem a little silly and unnatural and that's, like, wonderful. That's just a wonderful tool to have. Humor is the death of realms. [laughter] Self-irony.


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