Spacious Passion

Chapter 4 – Coming up for Air

god realm

When we dwell in the perception of the god realm we are not interested in the problems of others, because everything is perfect and easy in our self-referential world. We cannot understand how things could be unpleasant or difficult. Gods are self-absorbed. Everything in their realm is beautiful and glossy, and appears to be an extension of their own glossy beauty. They may regard themselves as realised beings because they experience everything as beautiful and satisfactory. Their absorption however, is self-referential and is therefore devoid of precision, sparkle, presence, and clarity. They fail to realise that they are still enmeshed in duality and that it is possible to experience unpleasantness. The god realm is characterised by roominess rather than spaciousness. The potential for the non-dual energy of ubiquitous intelligence and all-encompassing awareness is distorted. As Ngak’chang Rinpoche says, … by absorption in self-referential velleities in which languid non-struggle poses as perfection. They are relaxed in a state of dull confidence and dull knowing. Engaging with the form quality of space as definition, they ignore the emptiness quality of space as lack of definition.

Ngak’chang Rinpoche pointed out that, … God realm perception cannot understand why every being does not simply share their distended relaxation. Gods are like the monistic ‘god-realised’ guru who tells devotees ‘Come to my position’ when asked about the nature of realisation. When the devotees do not comprehend this answer the guru just smiles benevolently and repeats, ‘It is so simple – just come to my position.’ It is a position of rarefied complacency in which sublime ignorance and rhapsodic arrogance drift like candyfloss clouds against a two dimensional sky.

God perception cannot understand the struggle experienced by the beings of the other realms. The gods may be aware of unhappiness but cannot comprehend its cause or how to help, other than to say: ‘Try not to struggle so much.’ In god perception, everything is so smooth and silky that there is no energy and no humour. There is no humour in the god realm because there is no perception of difference – or none that causes friction of any kind. There is no irony. Nothing is ludicrous apart from the almost infinite ludicrousness of the god realm itself – and to that recognition the gods are utterly immune. ‘Easy listening’ music plays forever and they never tire of it because it fails to re-define anything.

In the god realm success comes easily. Success for the gods consists of always being surrounded by people telling them how clever and beautiful they are. We say, ‘You were so wonderful in that film, so perfect’ and each one replies:, ‘I know.’. The relaxed yet vapid splendour of god perception is a huge hindrance to spiritual practice, because the inhabitants of the god realm can see no reason to change the way they are. Everything is perfect already, so ‘Why would I need to engage with practice?’ God perception is protracted, but eventually the perceptual predisposition which led to it will exhaust itself.

Ngak’chang Rinpoche says of the span of time in which the gods exist, It is not that the gods necessarily exist for æons – it is more that the sense of time is indefinite. For time to seem to pass, events need to unfold and changes need to occur. Lacking any sense of difference or of movement – the sense of time in the god realm is necessarily protracted in terms of experience. It is a period of time in which nothing of any consequence occurs and in which adjacent phenomena have only marginal impact.

The self-absorption of the god realm is experienced when we are so concerned with our own life and success that we become oblivious to the needs of others. If we notice someone is unhappy or someone tells us of a problem, we simply say ‘Relax and it will be fine.’ We mistake the ease of our circumstances for wisdom. We assume that we are comfortable because we have discovered the secret of successfully manipulating samsara. We expect our comfort to be definitive and permanent. In the god realm I am so used to everything being easy and smooth that I cannot imagine myself in another being’s situation. My world is so enclosed and revolves so totally around my own needs and wishes, that I assume everyone else’s world is the same.

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche describes this as ‘a kind of self-hypnosis, a natural state of concentration which blocks out of the mind everything that might be irritating or undesirable.’3 An example of a god-realm response is the superlatively naïve comment of Marie Antoinette. When told that the peasants had no bread to eat, she is reported as responding, ‘Let them eat cake.’


3. Chögyam Trungpa, Transcending Madness; Part II, Chapter 2, ‘Realm of the gods’ (Shambhala Publications, 1992).