The Sweet Taste, God Concepts, and Suffering

July 19, 2023

Shambhavi talks about people pleasing and the desire for intimacy, embodying the view that God is everywhere, and how there is no suffering. A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi

I'm hosting today for the first time in quite awhile, and I was having just that feeling of goodness and of doing something that expresses my love for this tradition and this community. And I was feeling how there's a little bit of an echo of that feeling, that sweet taste feeling, in my urge to be people pleasing. But that, of course, has a lot of manipulation involved in it too.

Sometime I said offer a sweet taste to the Lord. Meaning in everything that you do, offer a sweet taste. And really, if you do that, you don't really need to do anything else.

But, of course, we're also saying that everyone is the Lord. So we're not just saying go to church and offer something to a statue of somebody, or pray and offer something to whomever you're praying to. We're saying offer a sweet taste to everyone and everything, every being, every circumstance.

Offer a sweet taste, don't offer poison. Then whatever failings we have, we can be fine with them. If we do that, if we do our best to do that.

Sweetness is the primordial taste. Sweetness is the taste of the base state of reality, of the natural state. Sweetness is the taste of God. Sweetness is the taste of your own Self.

I know that's hard for some of you to believe, but it is. We crave sweetness because it is the fundamental taste. And then the way that things work is there's a full-on, unlimited expression of something, and then there are more limited expressions of everything.

So we can think of reality as streams of wisdom and virtue that have different forms of expression. Some of them are more expansive and uninterrupted and unlimited, and some of them are more limited. But everything here is that.

When we get down to, for instance, our craving for actual sweet food or even junk food, we're talking about a more limited expression of that craving for the sweetness of God.

I see people pleasing, and maybe it's a broader spectrum than what I'm thinking of it as, but I see people pleasing as a way to avoid criticism but still get what you want. I see people pleasing as a kind of ruse or a false flag operation.

I don't know if you know what that is. But it's an operation where you look like you're giving everyone what they want and saying— you think you know what everyone wants to hear. So you're saying those things, and you're either promising or doing or pretending to do those things.

But then you're actually doing an end run around everyone to try to get what you want. So this is why— people pleasers are afraid to just say this is what I want and this is what I don't want. But being human, they still want what they want.

So they end up being people who displease a lot because they make promises that they don't keep. That is the signal form of relationship for a people pleaser is making promises you don't keep. And also lying because you want to get what you want, but you're afraid you'll be disapproved of, and so you lie to get what you want.

But basically, people pleasing is a way to get what you want and avoid some sort of imagined or projected disapproval. And, of course, we all crave intimacy, but we think mistakenly that intimacy resides in our relationship with specific people or animals or plants.

We mistakenly think that intimacy resides in one kind of relationship and not in others. And until we have that experience of generalized intimacy with everything and everyone, we're going to experience painful loneliness, and we're going to experience a painful feeling of lack of some sort.

We'll often say I feel lonely because I don't have enough people around or this particular person isn't here. Or my pet has gone away, or I'm not living in the place I want to live, or I don't know enough people, or something like that. Or I don't have the friends that are simpatico or something. Or my parents died.

We have a lot of stories about why we feel lonely, but actually, we feel lonely all the time except in very particular moments when we get temporary relief. But underlying that is always going to be loneliness until we discover that we are intimate with everything, we're continuous with everything.

If you're working hard to make your way to the divine, and there's situations in your life you don't want to do, but you have to do it because responsibilities of life.

You mean, like, family obligations and work and stuff?

Yeah. Basically how you don't lose focus on the pursuit of the divine.

We have concepts about reality, right? We have ideas about things that aren't really based in knowledge, they're just— not based in real knowledge. They're based in received ideas that we've gotten from our cultures and our families and our religions and stuff like that. We have a lot of concepts like that.

And one of those concepts is that there's something spiritual and divine, and there are other things that aren't. And that those things that aren't are taking us away from the things that are. Those are concepts.

But in this tradition—this is loosely called a nondual tradition—in this tradition, we say there's nothing here but God. Everything that you experience here is part of the creative process of one alive, aware reality. You could call it God. You don't have to, but shorthand God.

So if everything is God, if you're God, if I'm God, if that cup is God, if that microphone is God, if the newspaper is God, if everyone here is God, if the chair is God, if the sun is God, if the trees are God, if your job is God, if your family is God, if your house is God and your car is God, and Walmart's is God, then nothing could ever take you away from God.

The problem, though, is that we can hear that, but we haven't embodied it yet. We don't know it for ourselves for sure. We don't have absolutely reliable, direct experience of that.

So it sounds like a nice thing. It's like a spiritual Hallmark card, right? Everything's one, everything's God, it's all great. But that doesn't mean we have direct experience of it. That's why we need to do spiritual practice in order to have direct experience of that. And then it can be real and not just a concept.

That's what we're doing here. That's what Jaya Kula is really all about is getting some direct experience of the real nature of things so that we can realize that total intimacy with everything for ourselves. Now that might not happen in one lifetime, but we can experience some of it sometimes. And even that is really wonderful.

And also we can practice that in community together too. Right now, you just give as much time as you can. And if you decide you like what's happening here and you want to go further, there's a four-day teaching coming up that teaches you all the practices you need to know to get started and gives you a sense of the whole view of the tradition—what it's about, what it says about spiritual life, et cetera.

And you'll be given certain practices that are called integrated practices. Integrated practices are done when you're out and about at your job, when you're with your family. They're things that are done silently, just remembering the nature of things and remembering who you are when you're integrated in life.

This is considered to be the most important thing in this tradition. There are several traditions like this from India and Tibet. And other ones from China and I'm sure other places too that I don't know about.

But the hallmark of these traditions is first of all, they're not monastic traditions. You don't have to go away from your regular life in order to do them. They're what's called householder traditions, traditions for people with obligations and responsibilities.

Actually, these traditions are designed for people who are in life and just living a regular life. And all of the teachers in these traditions are also doing that. Many of them are married or just doing regular things.

It's not considered to be necessary to go anywhere special or isolate yourself or renounce anything because if everything is God, what is there to renounce? If everything is God, what is there to go away from?

Now some people are in a certain condition where temporarily they need to limit their lives in some way to do spiritual practice. But that's just because they want to and it suits them. It's not because it's the only way. So we try to do what's practical for us and to recognize what condition we're in and to try to deal with that.

So if we're in a condition, which most people are, where we're relating to our family or at our job, and we completely forget about spiritual life while we're doing that, we're compartmentalizing our lives into this is spiritual and this is not, then we have to work with that to try to break down that division, to try to not be experiencing things that way anymore.

And there are ways to do that. There really isn't a conflict there. There's just concepts there. It's a little different than what you might have heard. There's many different traditions from India, and some of them are more about renunciation. And this tradition is not about that.

I was curious about— I guess I've just been reading some notes from a Tibetan tradition where there's a lot of emphasis on suffering and the goals for [...] to get away from suffering. And I was just curious why that's so emphasized in certain Buddhist traditions.

Well, that was part of the Buddha's revelation, the Shakyamuni Buddha, that everyone suffers, and everyone wants happiness. So that emphasis comes directly out of his teachings.

However, part of the obstacle that happens with the reception of various Buddhist traditions from Tibet where they have a teaching method where relative teachings are given first and then absolute teachings—they don't give them together like we do here—is that many, many people never realize that they haven't been given the whole view of reality of those traditions.

So you read a book, or you go to a meditation group or something like that, and you're told these teachings of the Shakyamuni Buddha about suffering, and you think that is the whole of Buddhism, but it's not.

First of all, Buddhism isn't just from the Shakyamuni Buddha. Buddhism from Tibet is also from Guru Padmasambhava, the second Buddha, who is the main form of Buddha who is referred to or focused on in the Nyingma tradition and the Dzogchen tradition from Tibet.

And there's also the indigenous Bon tradition in Tibet that is very much aligned with Dzogchen and has given a lot to all of the different forms of Buddhism in Tibet, whether acknowledged or not. For instance, in the Tibetan traditions that I've either deeply or glancingly studied in, the ultimate teaching is that there is no suffering.

It's exactly the same as the teaching in Trika, that suffering is something that we experience because we have limited access to wisdom. But that ultimately, everything here is a play of one—they would say nature of mind, we say one subjectivity—and nothing is really happening.

So in the Kagyu tradition and the Nyingma tradition and the Dzogchen tradition, the teaching is that nothing is happening. Everything is a play of nature of mind, and suffering is part of that play, but it's not really happening. It's just experiences of suffering that are happening.

Just like we would say within one subjectivity that there are no real people here or animals here to suffer. We don't get those teachings, and they seem really shocking when you come across them.

I remember there was a book by some Tibetan Buddhist teacher. It's called There Is No Suffering. It was the first time I'd ever heard of it. I thought the Buddhists were all about suffering. I read it and I was absolutely shocked, and I realized oh, there's a lot about Buddhism that I don't know.

So we have to deal with our relative condition, which suffering is basically pain married to attachment. Everybody experiences pain, but suffering is when we are attached to certain concepts and forms of emotions, and they just keep repeating over and over again. And that's what we call suffering.

And we're trying to divest ourselves of that staleness of repetition of karmas that we call suffering by doing practice.

But the ultimate teaching, other than— there are sutra traditions, Sutrayana, the vehicle of sutra, and Mahayana, where the teaching is much more relative, basically, where suffering is thought of in a different way.

But once you get beyond Mahayana into the Kagyu tradition and the Nyingma tradition and Dzogchen and the Bon tradition, you get teachings— the absolute teachings are much more like Trika.

Sometimes people study for their whole lives, especially in the US, they study in a Buddhist tradition and they never actually find out what the absolute teachings are because of the method where they have this graduated system that starts with the relative and leaves out the absolute. In this kind of tradition, Chan Buddhism, Dzogchen, Trika, you just get the whole thing all at once.

So you know what house you're in before you go into a particular room. You don't want to mistake a room for the whole house. But, for instance, in Dzogchen, they don't even talk about the Shakyamuni Buddha. I never had any teachings of the Shakyamuni Buddha from Dzogchen teachers. It's really a different reference point.


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