God • Titan • Human • Animal • Hungry ghost • Hell
These are the names of the six realms, or lokas in Sanskrit. The realms represent the six styles in which human beings lose touch with their real nature and experience suffering, aka, karma.
When we do sadhana, we begin to step out of the realms. Our clarity, spontaneity and freedom of expression increase.
Last time, I wrote about God Realm. About every two weeks, I will be describing a new realm and will offer a few pointers about working with each flavor of karmic fixation.
Some people deal with self-doubt by withdrawing. Others try to mask self-doubt with aggression.
Titan realm patterning causes people to go to extraordinary lengths to achieve and prove themselves worthy of acclaim. They desperately want to be publicly recognized as número uno.
The great attachments of Titan realm are to being first, best, highest and especially to being chosen.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with achieving, but the unending struggle of Titan realm for public recognition derives from gnawing uncertainty about one’s value and subsequent fear of being unmasked, humiliated and passed over.
For this reason, Titan realm fixation is laced with poisonous competitiveness and envy.
No one is more vigilant than a Titan, restlessly watchful and ever-ready to compete at the hint of a threat of being surpassed, or simply to crush anyone who triggers the fear of being found out.
Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche calls Titan realm the “middle child realm.” Titans compete to become all-powerful like the gods above them and work off anxiety about failing by bullying and manipulating those who are perceived to be “weaker.”
A special corner of Titan realm is reserved for the “secret competitor.” This is someone, often female, who competes by refusing to compete. Refusing to get one’s hands dirty and publicly compete is the launching pad for cultivating a silent feeling of superiority. Secret competitors secretly criticize the accomplishments of other people and fantasize that they, the secret competitor, could do better. Sometimes they console themselves with the thought that being invisible, or going unrecognized are signs of greatness.
Titan karma shows up in spiritual practice as over-effortful, competitive sadhana and the desperate need for external measurements.
There may be an attachment to stages of spiritual accomplishment, collecting initiations, being recognized as the number one student, to lineage pedigrees, to traditions that tout their superiority and to concepts of enlightenment that include a definite final accomplishment toward which one can strive.
Exit from the Titan Realm
- Exhaustion is one way out. Maintaining Titan realm vision is enormously effortful. Sometimes a crisis of exhaustion can lead one to experience moments of real relaxation, softness and peace. These can become a beacon in your life. You come to understand that you will never resolve your anxiety about yourself using your formidable Titan toolbox. Vulnerability and emptiness are gateways to waking up.
- Titan realm is the lying realm; it is the realm of the exaggeration of accomplishments and outright lies of self-protection and self-aggrandizement. Practicing absolute honesty with friends and your teacher can lead to a relaxation of defensiveness and greater tolerance of uncertainty, mistakes and doubt.
Mistaking, mistaking, I travel the unmistaken path… forgetting, forgetting, I remember the unforgettable expanse. —Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche
- Prostration practice gives you what you really long for: the opportunity to lay down your burden at the feet of God. Learn how to do full-body prostrations, do them slowly and with heart. Let the tears of devotion flow.
- Deliberately soften and slow down your asana practice and seated practice. Use your senses to feel each moment and let go of the internal watcher and external goals.
The perfectionism, intense focus and the hyper-vigilant self- and other-monitoring of Titan realm is a kind of sharp, but perverted seeing emerging from excess fire element. You know, or think you know, how things should be done and how easy it is to screw up. This realm fixation actually holds insight about the fragility of karmic views of success and failure. The relaxation of Titan realm karma leads to great equanimity in the face of life’s ups and downs.