The Heart Space, Initiation, and Functional Precepts

September 27, 2023

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The heart space is all of reality. In the Trika tradition, the heart is everywhere, and everything is coming out of the heart. Our heart space and our body, and our body is a microcosm of everything.

Our body is basically a map and an instrument of sadhana. Everything about our bodies can be used for sadhana. And we have our physical body that can be used. We have our subtle energy body that can be used.

We have different subtle structures in our body that can be used. And they're literally maps of sadhana and protocols for sadhana written into our bodies. And it's also a microcosm of all of reality and of cosmology.

So in the center of our chest, inside is what is called the heart space, hridaya akasha. It's also in Trika, sometimes called the cave of the heart. So a cave is a place of retreat and sadhana.

And it isn't identical with the heart chakra. The chakra system is a different way of approaching things. And so the heart space is more generalized than that. And it doesn't have any structure the way that the heart chakra does with so many petals, and all these different symbols.

That's not what the heart space is about. The heart space is a portal or a place where we can experience a less-conditioned form of life. Now in the Trika tradition specifically, Devi is said to be speaking from the heart space. All Mantras are said to be coming from the heart space.

It is both the place of the uniting of Shiva and Shakti, but also the place specifically of Devi. And this portal from which this fountain of life is continually flowing, all these manifest forms.

So if we think of all of life as the heart space, what does that mean? Is that just like the Hallmark version of reality by Trika Shaivism? [laughter] No, it turns out.

It means that this experience that we're having and the experience that everyone is having is pouring out continuously from the absolute. Everywhere, all at once.

And this continual pouring out is not different from virtues that we associate with the heart. We have certain associations with the heart. And when we go [gestures], it means I love you, right? We do that to somebody. Or, I'm thinking fondly of you or something.

Well, that association, it turns out, is not arbitrary. We learn that association because our heart space is actually considered to be the fountain of wisdom. And that wisdom is inseparable from virtue.

It's inseparable from compassion. It's inseparable from mercy. It's inseparable from generosity. It's inseparable from devotion. It's inseparable from delight in the creation. It's inseparable from astonishment and wonder at the creation.

It's inseparable from that brilliance and intelligence and clarity of the Supreme Self. The heart is full of what I call wisdom-virtue. They're never separate.

Knowledge of the nature of the self or the nature of reality is completely inseparable from these virtues, like compassion. Or you could just say feelings. So it's not arbitrary that we have these associations with the heart.

And it's not arbitrary that in Trika, all of reality is said to be a heart. Because the expression of manifest life is happening with compassion, devotion, playfulness, delight, intelligence, clarity, brilliance, everything that we associate with the heart.

We have this space within us, this experience of a space. And when we go into that space, when we're doing sadhana, or when we just do, when we flash on it, we can instantly enter into a less-conditioned experience. Even if only for a moment.

The fact that we have something like the heart space within us is an expression of the mercy and generosity and compassion of this alive, aware reality. That we have everything in us.

For instance, in the Kularnava Tantra, it says there's no need to go on external pilgrimages. The greatest pilgrimage is the human body. We can go everywhere within the human body or with the human body.

So this is an expression of compassion and mercy that we can do this. Now we have this space that's located in the center of our chest that we call the heart space or the cave of the heart.

But in other places, in Trika, not very often, but here and there, you'll read, it says, every aspect of the human body is the heart. This heart space that's in the center of our chest is just the easiest thing for us to access.

The most important sadhanas, in my mind are done as explorations of the heart space or with mantra that originates from the heart space or visualization, or something or other.

There's many, many different sadhanas related to the heart space because it's our easiest access point for experiencing the absolute. For experiencing the nature of devi. For experiencing the nature of the creation. For discovering all of those wisdom-virtues.

It's the easiest thing for us, the easiest portal. And we should do what's called, pick up what's ready-to-hand. Pick up what's easiest. That's what we should do.

It's still subtle, and it's not like every person who embarks on this kind of practice is going to immediately have an experience of the heart space or a profound experience of heart space, but that doesn't matter.

There's other ways to experience that. And even if you're not ripe yet to experience it, if you keep going, eventually you will. So this is for discovering our real nature. That's what the heart space is for.

As for specific practices, we're doing exclusively heart space practice every Tuesday morning online. On Facebook, my Facebook profile, and on our YouTube channel.

If you or anybody wants to start learning some specific practices, you can join me on Tuesday mornings at 07:30 a.m. Pacific, for half an hour, and we do practice together. And then also I do specifically a teaching on kriya yogas of the heart, kriyas of the heart.

And I don't know that I'm doing that this year, but soon-ish. We'll do that. We just had a kriya yoga teaching of other kinds of kriyas, but the next phase is to do the ones of the heart. I usually do those at least every year.

I'm curious about what your viewpoint is on initiation in the practice of modern Trika Shaivism.

I'll tell you a story that my Dzogchen teacher often told, and I think it applies to anything regarding initiation. So he was, I'm just repeating how he told it. I'm not making anything up.

He was an arrogant young man, university educated. His name starts with King. [laughter] And he thought he knew a lot about spiritual practice. I mean, he came from a very illustrious family, spiritually speaking. He'd done a lot of practice, et cetera.

And there was some lama who was very well-known but reclusive, who he wanted to get some initiation from. He had to travel out in the countryside. This lama, or Rinpoche, I think it was a Rinpoche, not just a lama. He was a naturopathic doctor, and he practiced out in the country.

And he didn't really participate in any formal lineages or anything. So Namkhai Norbu went out there and he asked for this initiation. And the teacher just kept putting him off and saying, come help me with these patients.

And come help me give medicine to these people and let's just sit around, blah, blah, blah. Finally, after a few days, Namkhai Norbu was getting very, very frustrated. And he said, I really want this initiation.

And the teacher said, I already gave it to you. And Namkhai Norbu said, when? And the teacher said, I had dreams about you when you got here. And Namkhai Norbu said, yes, but those are your dreams, not my dreams. I didn't have any dreams about initiation. [laughs]

And of course, the teacher is just thinking what a dense person. But so he agrees to do the external formal initiation. It's not an initiation like samaya diksha. It's an initiation into a practice or text or something.

But the teacher didn't care very much about this, wasn't actually terribly literate. And so he got some moldy old robes out of a chest that he hadn't worn in a billion years and some texts that he couldn't really read that well.

He had an assistant helping him. And this initiation that should have taken like 30 minutes took all day. Hours and hours and hours. Because the teacher kept screwing it up and having to go back to the beginning and start over again.

And so after it was all over, Namkhai Norbu said, thank you very much. I'll be leaving tomorrow. And the teacher said, Well, why are you leaving tomorrow? And he said, Because I got what I came for.

And the teacher said, you got nothing. Stay. And so then the next day, he said, now let's just start learning what Dzogchen really is. These traditions are about direct seeing or direct introduction, and that can happen by any means.

There can be formal initiations, and there can not be formal initiations. There can be formal initiations which are barely registered by the student. And there can be informal initiations that are completely life-shattering. So it depends on what you need, right? It depends on what condition you're in.

The status of initiation is that you have to be initiated into natural lineage. It doesn't make a rat's-turd amount of difference [laughter] if you're initiated into some formal lineage by someone who has no natural lineage.

Natural lineage means that you have actual realization. [laughs] That you actually have knowledge of the natural state that's embodied and expressed in your everyday relationships with actual other people, and other beings.

So for initiation to be real, that's the prerequisite. And I won't say any more than that, other than that there's a lot of people attached to lineage who don't have natural lineage.

Like this teacher, that Namkhai Norbu, this teacher, Changchub Dorje, became his root teacher. A semi-literate peasant guy basically out in the wilderness became the root teacher of this university-educated fairly well off so-and-so.

Because that teacher had real lineage. That teacher had natural lineage. That teacher actually knew what they were talking about. And once you start to have contact with real lineage, natural lineage, and you don't have to have any formal teacher to have that.

That really just depends on your karmas. There's no rules about that at all. Once you start to have contact with that, it becomes much, much easier to tell when someone does or does not have contact with that.

Before you have contact with natural lineage, it's difficult to know. Sometimes it's really difficult to know. And the Buddhists say, or not Dzogchen, but in other forms of Tibetan Buddhism, they say, well, you should rely on the titles that people have and their lineage of teachers.

And you should rely on that to be safe. Okay, you know how that goes. [laughter] That is not safe. What is safe is listening to your own best self, your own innate sense of what is sweet and good and useful and wholesome and real and honest.

And even barring having any accomplishment in yourself, you might still try to get in touch with that when approaching people who are teachers and give initiations and things like that. So initiation means direct introduction. It means being shown your real face.

Having an experience of your essence nature. That's what initiation means. And that can happen anytime, anyhow by many, many, many different means. And it can be fleeting or it can be earth-shattering, life-changing. But even the fleeting things add up. So it's fine.

The other thing to watch out for where initiations are concerned is people who tell you that they're giving you something you don't have. That's just a number one red flag that someone doesn't know what they're talking about.

If they're creating dependency by telling you that they are giving you something you don't have. They're giving you their shakti. They're giving you their this, or their that. All that means is they actually literally don't know what they're talking about.

That's another way you could judge because lots of people say things like that. [laughs] There's many, many ways to discern, but you didn't really ask about that. So, I'll just leave it at that.

It was making me think about one of your podcasts, when I listened to you talking about the precepts being functional. I wondered if you could talk about that.

We do call them precepts. Well, just sort of ways to live. Like being honest, something like that, really basic stuff. If we take the example of being honest, if we were in a different kind of tradition, we might say, well, honesty is good and dishonesty is a sin.

Or honesty is good and dishonesty is bad. Or evil. Or something like that. Those are moral and ethical reasons for following precepts. I'm going to follow a precept because I want to be good. I want to become good. I want to be good. I don't want to be bad. I don't want to sin.

Or I don't want to be evil. In this tradition in general about everything, first of all, we're having the experience after doing a bunch of practice, that there's no such thing as being bad or evil and there's no such thing as sin.

That everything here is the essence of it is sweetness and goodness and beneficence without any opposite, and that the appearings of things like bad and evil and sin are just part of the drama of manifest life. They aren't really about the nature of things.

So from the get-go, if we say, be honest as a precept, we're starting with the idea that there's some reason we would be honest other than because we don't want to be bad. Since we're already thinking I'm not bad.

Well, it turns out that honesty de-complicates our life. When we're being honest with people, we have way fewer entanglements and complications in our relationships with others. And that saves our energy.

Our lives become simplified. And we're more relaxed when we're honest. We're not hiding anything. We're not spending energy hiding things or trying to remember what we hid from somebody. [laughter]

And it turns out that the relaxation that comes from honesty and the disentanglement has some real functional benefits for us. First of all, it gives us more time to do sadhana.

Gives us more calm mind, more calm body, more calm energy. So we have more energy to do sadhana, and do things that are more healthy. It also builds ojas.

Honesty is the number-one medicine for human beings that helps us to build immunity. Not just literal immunity from disease, but immunity from being pushed around by circumstances too much. Immunity from having a really rough experience in life.

Ojas is the end product of digestion, and it creates a feeling of largesse or, like I have enough to survive this situation. Let's say I lose my job or my house burns down. Or, someone leaves me that I really love.

Those are really difficult circumstances. And people are going to be thrown off by them to different degrees. If we have really healthy ojas, yes, we're going to grieve and feel upset.

But we're also going to inside of us feel, okay, this is bad, but I can survive this. I can get through this and it's going to be okay. That's the feeling of having healthy ojas. So honesty is the number-one thing that helps us to build ojas.

All of these things are functional benefits of being honest. And there is absolutely no judgment, either moral or ethical judgment about people being dishonest.

Everything that we're doing, every way that we try to put the teachings into practice, precepts and all other things are all functional. Because there is no ethics in this tradition. There is no moral basis for it. There's no sense of right and wrong. Or good and bad. Or evil and holy, or sinful and holy.

Or whatever the opposites are. There's a sense of we are trying to discover our essential goodness that's already there completely intact and undamaged. Everything we're doing is functionally helping us to do that.


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