Shambhavi is the spiritual director of Jaya Kula: a non-profit community with spots in both Oregon and California. Shambhavi is a long-time practitioner of Trika (or Kashmiri) Shaivism. What is this ancient and beautiful tradition?
Similar to other direct realisation paths, like the Tibetan Dzogchen, and even Advaita Vedanta, this path takes everyday experience and sees the divine. Nothing is created nor destroyed, because it is already here. However, the tradition is super spontaneous and “messy” as Shambhavi likes to say, because it often attracts those with higher emotional and artistic leanings.
In her Satsangs, questions are always pummeled at her, and she doesn’t miss a beat, because she has been there before in her 30+ years of practice. Her podcast called “Satsang with Shambhavi” explores everything from loneliness to the nature of Reality to puja and the natural waves and troughs of waking up. Oh – and she teaches me once again how to relax!
Visit Jayakula.org to learn more about Trika Shaivism and join Shambhavi in your spiritual quest!
Alan Gordon is the creator of the Cycle of Mind “system” which looks at the subconscious mind as a gateway to change thoughts and behaviour. He explains in our interview how the subconscious, as opposed to the unconscious and conscious (which really have invisible boundaries), holds our most basic beliefs on what’s possible for us as human beings. It is mind-boggling that notions picked up at by the tender age of three years old still run our adult lives — and they are well below our conscious awareness, so we have to take extra care to be able to change them.
Human beings are now driven more by thoughts and the internal world than ever before to be able to navigate, and this is likely due to both evolution and culture. Since we are small, we are taught that we are “a person” with a specific set of unique characteristics, unlike anybody else. This creates a separation between self and other and creates the internal monologue — which is not wrong but natural, but the next stage is to go beyond this limited perspective.
The Buddha always mentioned that we can change our world by changing our minds. Alan has the same idea. He draws on ancient wisdom for the realisation that we are able to expand out of our limited ideas about our thoughts to create
“a palace… instead of a prison.”
Without further adieu, I present Alan Gordon and his Cycle of Mind in our episode above!
Rob Cobbold is the founder of a global mind-heart-spirit movement called Conscious Evolution. Rob’s work focuses on the higher evolution of human beings and as a global conscious structure — indeed, as the entire human family we are. His upcoming podcast will bring in guests who talk about this greater perspective and what it means for us. Catch him on his Twitter at conscious_evo.
Humans and the entire cosmos seem to be evolving into endlessly more complex systems. Think about when you were ten years old and what you knew; now you can see that with each year, more complexity on your worldview has become accumulated based on a vast number of personal experiences, education, and social interactions. Of course, some peoples’ worldviews do not necessarily change that much over a lifetime. However, it has become easier to communicate across the globe with enhanced technology and travel, so open-mindedness is coming to a peak. (We’re not there yet, but my feeling is good that we are co-reaching this stage of development).
This is where spiral dynamics comes in. Spiral dynamics is an observational “theory” that Ken Wilbur and others have created to explain how humans evolve beyond biology. The stages are ordered by colour:
Beige for survival: Babies are in this phase along with some animals. Those in poverty and war-torn areas can be here. Also, when extreme conditions arise requiring sacrifice of moral boundaries in order to stay alive push otherwise comfortable people into this phase.
Purple for security: Tribalism is at the root, where survival is taken care of but the needs of the tribe have to be kept sancrosanct. Ritual, magic, and patterned behaviour make sure the tribe is safe and grounded. Organised religions fall here.
Red for relentless power: The red phase comes in when purple gets cocky. Red societies realise their security is met but they still see a threat from somewhere out there, including other tribs. Red will do whatever it takes to gain more control, including murder. Powerful and ruthless dictators are here along with government officials who care only about their own interests and not their brethren.
Blue for nationalism and rule: Blue is more civilised than red, because it has learned it can use the power of the mind and subtle tactics to keep order and control. Rather than rule by sword, it can also rule by manipulation and word. Blue societies are highly ordered so that members keep their belief. Laws, regulations, religious sectarianism, absolute right and wrong / black and white thinking fall here.
Orange for individualism and success: Individuals are seen as key players who rely on themselves for success. Egocentrism, self-image, and mental strategising to gain prestige, fame, or wealth lie here. Goals, achievement, and planning rule orange. This is the current phase the western world is in on the whole.
Green for cohesive community and environmental concerns: When orange begins to notice there’s not much to get ahead of, it will seek the green phase to worry about other people and the natural world. Individuals organise themselves into communities and express themselves freely and compromise on what the other wants and needs. Egocentric behaviour still governs green, as it does not yet see the larger picture of the whole; it still relies on small tribal behaviours within an in-group, such as political liberals or a specific charity organisation.
Yellow for holistic integration: Yellow is the phase we want to see in our lifetime. We realise that human beings are not the centre of the universe but a cohesive part of the universe. Strategies for picking up the pieces from the other phases will be thought-through (such as un-doing the damge from the industrial revolution) with the power of intelligence, working together, extreme open-mindedness, and taking all sides into account. It is like holographic or diamond-thinking, looking at all angles and stepping in one anothers’ shoes. Creativity and invention and innovation without profit rule. When yellow makes a mistake, they admit it wholeheartedly and move on to a better way of behaving.
Turquoise for compassion and harmony: Turquoise is the highest level we can imagine thus far. It is the total integration of all it has learned from the other stages and is the embodiment of peace and harmony on earth and universal systems. When body, speech, mind, spirit, and all the factors that make a person come together in perfect synchronicity, then we have this stage. It’s likely the garden of Eden but nobody knows yet!
Spiral dynamics takes a step back and looks at how complex humans and their conceptual creations have been and can be in the future. This is one way of looking at human evolution in the new sense of the word. As complexity increases, so does novelty. When novelty gets boring, then peace and harmony will be the outcome.
Did you ever get that sinking feeling that this is the true purpose of life?
Meditation is such a vast topic, but Eric and I whittle it down to what it means to him. Firstly, before undertaking a spiritual path, Eric was deeply addicted and involved with various substances. Meditation helped him break away from his afflictive behaviour. Listen above to hear about both our meditation journeys and pick up some advice! Here is a brief article on my views on meditation:
“Mantric meditation or meditation on the Vedic mantras with concentration,
Visual meditation or meditation on a particular deity with illumined thought,
Absorption in mind and heart or meditation on illumined insight residing in the mind and the heart.”
And, in the Upanishads, which are much more explicit philosophically and revelatorally, we have the additional mention of:
“Samadhi or the experience of the ecstatic state of Brahman was the fourth state of Brahman, which is not mentioned in the Rigveda but described in the Mandukya Upanishad as the Fourth state (turiya)..”
On from this, we have the mention of the terms “Dharana” and “Dhyana” in both Jaina texts and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. According to Pantanjali in his eight limbs of yoga, Dharana precedes Dhyana as a means of reaching Samadhi. Dharana is one-pointed concentration on an object/idea with inevitable associative thoughts on the object. In Dharana, if one is meditating on a cup, one might think of the concept of morning or what the cup could be filled with or the shop the cup came from; the personal ego is still there. In Dhyana, the cup is the cup without associations and the meditator is not aware of him/herself as a personal ego associated with the cup; they become one. Dharana is becoming aware of the thoughts and Dhyana is uninterrupted flow with no sway by the thoughts. Samadhi is the highest form of meditation where the meditator and the cup become one and the same with a state of bliss, because there is no separation and concentration is complete.
Historically, we can see that meditation can encompass spiritual reflection, oral or silent mantra recitation, concentration, Tantra, and Samadhi — which all lead to bliss and peace eventually. This is when the Buddha steps into the picture and gives new additions to meditation: mainly Mindfulness, which can be found in the Satipatthana Sutta, and the Jhanas. Beautifully, the Buddha came to enlightenment through intense reflection under the Bodhi Tree, re-thinking his patterns, behaviour, and life decisions. All styles are valuable.
Living in Vedic society and undertaking at least six years of aescetic practices, the Buddha was quite adept at knowing Vedic philosophy and regularly debated with Brahmans. Thus, some instructions are quite similar and have roots in ancient Dharma.
His meditation instructions range from practices in concentration, to mindfulness, to the Jhanas, to Samadhi, and various instructions in between. Mindfulness, as it is known in popular culture, is not simply paying attention to the present moment nor the breath – though those are the basic foundations. The Sutta includes meditations on the five elements, what are called the cemetery contemplations, the repulsiveness of the body (which is recommended if one is naturally inclined towards worshipping the body as the self), mindfulness on bodily postures, and generally paying attention to the activity one is engaged in.
Meditation is like a rung of the ladder on the Buddha’s 8-fold path to reach this ultimate goal. In both the Vedic and Buddhist Dharma, ‘equanimity of mind’ has to be cultivated first by most people until it is permanent. Whether Buddhist or Vedic, meditation’s ultimate goal is either Moksha (Vedic) or Liberation (Buddhist sense). Liberation/Moksha comes after Samadhi and is the end of the suffering mind
First and foremost, as in Vedic history also, the Buddha instructed concentration practices, because he found the mind is prone to wandering and has a life of its own; it does not yet contain peace. As we go along in Buddhist meditative practices, concentration is not so important. What is important is realising self as non-existent, as it is wrong identification that binds us. The more a person meditates, the more spacious one becomes, until the lines of conditioned reality are blurred and separation between self and other – including inanimate objects – disappears.
Most of our lives consist of empty space.
For context, Dzogchen, Advaita, and Vedanta all aim to incorporate practices that are open and spacious in nature. When space is created in the mind, one can begin to see that mind contains everything — including the contracted self or form we have taken to be ourselves all along. Then the mind can be transcended altogether.
What do I mean by this?
Take the body, for instance. We sincerely believe, and this is true for every human being, that we are a body which has had things happen to it in a continuum of time and space. Sometimes we were the doer, and sometimes things just happened to us out of our control. Every human being has to experience this point of view for survival reasons. We think we are the one looking out of our eyes in case there’s danger up ahead or there is some delicious food to eat within our sight. The mind’s job is to keep the body alive by searching, strategising, and planning. With more sophistication of the human species, however, especially as people have evolved into civilisations and societies that are relatively peaceful, survival is no longer such a struggle in the jungle.
In modern and even Vedantic societies (and most likely many societies before them) we are not so desperate to watch our backs all the time. Even so, the ways of the mind are ancient! We still have it in us that we need to struggle to feed our close relatives, make a living, be tribal and form exclusive groups, and worry about the future. This keeps us locked in the body/mind duality… unless there comes an interest spiritual progress.
The body and the mind never cease to function until death, yet, the body and mind believe wrongly that they are in control and thus, they try to prolong life or avoid death. This simply cannot happen – at least not the death part. Human beings can stay stuck in one mental system for an entire lifetime; conversely they can try everything in their creative power to change and manipulate the earth or their own and others’ circumstances – but this is not an antidote for death.
Meditation helps a person see, first-hand, that they are not the workings of the body nor mind, regardless of how fixed or fickle. It helps unlock the door to the vast, empty space that is “another part” of our being. In this space, our body and mind are contained. So, we are much larger than we think! The body and mind are limited, so when they are identified with, this creates a limited experience. This limitation is called a “person” with past, present, future, and innumerable assumptions based on the body/mind already knows or assumes.
Space creates insight. It cannot be any other way. Meditation is a key to putting a stop to Samsaric existence – also known as “the universe’s biggest status quo”.
How can we know what we don’t know, which cannot be answered by the mind?
Why am I here? What is my purpose? Who am I? How do I know God? Are there other beings, such as gods, goddesses, devas, ghosts, and intelligent life forms with material bodies in other places? What happens after death? Are people reborn? Where does consciousness come from?
These are all questions the mind cannot answer. Those who have written books about it or talked about it were either lying (I have to say this for logical conclusion) or have had their own answers through insight. True knowledge is obtained through experience and not reliance on others’ thoughts and feelings without experimentation. We know the sun exists, because we see and feel it everyday – we don’t have to read it in a book, though there are many books about it. So meditation instructions are there to gain insight and make real progress – not to gather what we commonly call “knowledge” in the Western sense. Real knowledge is called “Jnana”, based on our “Buddhi”. “Buddhi” is our wisdom faculty. It is the clear mind, cultivated through meditation and loving-kindness and compassion.
Some beings have the good fortune of coming into existence with a degree of these faculties already in place. For example, this would be a being who is already and naturally kind and non-discriminative towards others. Then there are those who may need to purposefully cultivate the qualities they wish to emanate, and this can be done through knowing the inner mind and reflection. For ideas, these qualities can be: the elimination of fear, consideration of others and their well- being, flexibility of personality, cooperation with circumstances especially out of one’s control, patience, awe, curiosity, wonder, not putting self or other down, humour, energy as opposed to laziness or sloth, and appreciation or gratitude.
Once the mind is looked into for its patterns (karma) and pitfalls, they can be overcome. Meditation is transcendental and trans-rational. Because we are in Samsara, our faculties are not yet used to their full potential. Their full potential is omnipotence and unlimitedness – when this discovery is made, then the body/mind can express its full potential and truest nature. And this is the point of meditation!
Devananda runs the Essence of Dharma podcast: a show which unites the Vedic and Buddhist Dhamma, for all seekers and finders of the truth. He also runs a fascinating Youtube channel with tons of Dharmic content.
In our episode, we have a free-flowing conversation about, well… Reality!
There is an underlying reality beyond what we normally see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. It is that which allows these five senses to function at all, except we wrongly identify with what is in the “front” of us.
But, it is like a screen. Did you ever watch a fire burning on television? Yes, this is like the ego, which pretends to be fiery-hot, but it’s absolutely cool in reality. The fire on the screen is like the consciousness of the five senses. It seems so ridiculously real, and it has been this way since time immemorial, put down to us by our parents (and their parents) who have been conditioned since time immemorial — and thus, we seem stuck in Samsara.
The wheel of Samsara can be counteracted by setting the wheel of Dhamma in motion!
Whether Buddhist, Dharmi, or otherwise… enjoy the episode and come closer to our essential nature.
Om, Om, AUM. May all beings be happy, free, and peaceful.