Benefiting others is the medicine and the fruit
Many people in spiritual communities follow precepts and strive to do less harm and be of more benefit. This is functional medicine. We have fewer opportunities to become entangled in difficult circumstances with others, and we conserve our vital energy.
But following precepts and striving to be be good is a pale echo of the fullness of generosity that is the real potential of a human being.
The heart of enjoyment
When we do enough sadhana (spiritual practice), we encounter a constantly overflowing fountain of generosity in the heart of reality.
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This heart is both within us and without. It is the heart space or cave of the heart in the center of our chests, and it is the heart of living presence everywhere.
In Trika Shaivism, we often do spiritual practices that engage the heart space. We then discover that the base state of existence is enjoyment. This alive, self-aware reality is in a state of profound self-enjoyment or appreciation of its own nature.
What we enjoy most of all is our own nature’s beneficence. We enjoy expressing natural generosity.
Trika Shaivism calls this overflowing generosity Śiva, the Auspicious. In Dzogchen, it is called Samantabhadra, the All Good. The essential nature of the Self that pervades all of existence is goodness and beneficence without an opposite.
Doing sadhana, limitations to experiencing that essential goodness are destroyed. Even if we have a somewhat small degree of realization, we can begin to enjoy the natural generosity that is our birthright. This is far from the work of following precepts.
A nameless joy takes possession of us when we know we have been of real benefit to others.
A student of mine described this as “electricity.”
I was having a meh day that just kept getting worse. A couple from Lima, Peru sitting next to me on the train realized that they missed their stop.
In my very broken Spanish, I started to find a way for them to get home. Long story short - I had a chance to help lost couple get home safely, and it just sent this immense spark of electricity through my body.
What felt like a day I just wanted to end… ended in the sweetest way possible.
This electricity is an aspect of ānandā, the bliss of appreciating one’s true nature, the Self.
Self-realization is being for others
The Shiva Sutras say:
śivatulyo jāyate — He becomes like Śiva
As humans we cannot become complete embodiments of the wisdom and virtue of Lord Śiva, but we can draw closer and closer. We can become more like Lord Śiva.1
As the uncomfortable bindings of small self concept dissolve so are our body, energy, and mind drawing closer to the state of Lord Śiva.
Natural generosity begins to express and along with it, the deep appreciation of our own nature that we call ānandā.
Abhinavagupta was a great teacher and siddha of Trika Shaivism who lived on the cusp of the 10th and 11th centuries. He noted that once we experience a high degree of realization, the desire to be of benefit to others is all that is left.2
One indicator of self-realization is that we find there is nothing left to do other than to be of benefit to others. We become all for others.
This state of affairs is not the product of a sense of ethical or moral rightness. It is a natural and joyful outpouring of self-expression with no explanation or justification.
When we are really being more like Lord Śiva, we deeply enjoy attending to the well-being of others.
We won’t have a lot say about it. We will be “busy” experiencing that enjoyment and wonder at the nature of the Self.
But many people want to be acknowledged and admired for being generous and compassionate. They try to barter helpfulness for approval, admiration, or intimacy. They may be afraid of abandonment and are trying to make themselves indispensable by being “helpful.”
This only means that they have not yet opened to the nourishment flowing from the heart of reality. At least some part of their helpfulness is a performance and an aspect of karmic limitation.
It’s easy to tell if we are pushing out a personal brand of being generous and compassionate. Generosity in this case cannot be fully nourishing. It ultimately becomes at least somewhat exhausting and disappointing.
People in this condition are helpful up to a point, but then they feel angry or despairing if they don’t get the feedback or reward they are looking for.
If this is your condition, try to find practices and teachings that help you to connect to the inexhaustible wisdom and generosity of the heart. Over time, you will “plug into” this inexhaustible supply and become more naturally generous and skillfully helpful.
Medicine and Fruit
Connecting to natural generosity is a profound medicine that heals feelings of insecurity, worthlessness, and trauma. We come to recognize that any damage we have experienced, while painful, is an aspect of impermanence. We make contact with our eternal nature full of wisdom, intelligence, creativity, and compassion.
Each of us has the innate capacity to make more conscious contact with this everflowing fountain. It lives in us and all around us. We are made of this and full of this, and we have this to give.
The path is to directly experience what flows from the heart and allow it to heal us. The fruit is to be able to share this naturally and spontaneously and joyfully with others.
with infinite love,
Lakshmanjoo, Swami. Shiva Sutras: The Supreme Awakening. Verse 3.25, location 4586. Universal Shaiva Fellowship. Kindle Edition. Also 3.26 in Mark S.G. Dyczkowski, The Aphorisms of Siva: The SivaSutra with Bhaskara's Commentary, the Varttika.
Lakshmanjoo, Swami. Light on Tantra in Kashmir Shaivism - Volume 2. Verse II.39, location 1236. Universal Shaiva Fellowship. Kindle Edition.