Spacious Passion

Chapter 4 – Coming up for Air

human realm

Human realm beings have the capacity to observe their own processes of discrimination and to laugh at their own need to philosophise. A sense of humour is a key characteristic of the human realm. A human realm being is able to view the limitations they place upon themselves with humour.

Ngak’chang Rinpoche says of the human realm, The human realm is characterised by humour. The capacity for humour is crucial to spiritual development – because without it we take ourselves and our ‘selves’ too seriously. By humour, I mean the capacity to laugh at oneself and one’s situation. The humour which finds mirth in the misfortune of others is of a bestial level – and by that I mean no disrespect to animals, as they are often imbued with nobler characteristics than many of the overtly homo sapiens genus. Humour is that which feels the space of a situation. Space has to exist for incongruity to allow playfulness. If there is no space, then real humour cannot exist. Real humour is innately open to compassion and wisdom, whereas distorted humour serves merely to entrench us in dualistic concretisations. The crude amusement which finds glee in mockery on the basis of racial, sexual, or religious differences, is a prime indicator of the absence of the precious human rebirth.

Human realm beings observe the limitations of fixing to particular opinions and stances. To dwell in the human realm means that we are able to discriminate and have some choice about the decisions we make. We have the space to discover that in fact our response, the way we see things, is a choice. The human realm has the potential for lightness and a sense of humour about discrimination, but there is also sufficient intensity to keep us from losing focus altogether.

Human realm beings have logical reasoning minds orientated towards creating happiness and pleasure. They have a critical attitude, seeing others as imperfect, whilst striving to achieve perfection themselves, however they may define it. Humans are highly discriminating, selective, and fussy, with an ability to gather knowledge and to learn from it. They continually assess their own situation against that of others. They have the capacity to intellectualise about what they would like to emulate in others, and to be critical of those who do not live up to their concept of a good life. Their intellect results in an endless stream of discursive thought: busy with ideas, plans, and dreams. They are constantly searching, judging, and evaluating their situation. These ideas and interpretations are then adopted as philosophies. Beings of similar philosophies group together and applaud each other, whilst deriding groups with differing philosophies. Every idea, ideal and conceptual construct can be organised into a basis for opinion and lifestyle.

Human perception has a particular pattern of compulsion. Desire is a primary manifestation – we consume and move on to the next object of desire. Human perception continually judges whether or not something is desirable. There is a burning need to belong, to feel part of what is going on, to feel assured of our existence through liking what other people like.

Human realm beings discriminate about what is desirable and actively engage with their objects of desire. However they are fickle and can easily change direction, moving on to a new hobby, a new yearning to own a particular thing, a new philosophy of who they are and what is important. Human realm beings have a great capacity for generosity and indiscriminate compassion. They can be spontaneously kind and actively work to help others. The compulsive energy of desire can be transformed into the non-dual energy of active compassion. This is the great potential of the human realm.

The human realm is the most favourable for engaging in spiritual practice, because there is just enough discomfort to make us question our existence and wonder about the nature of reality, but there is also enough comfort that our minds are not totally absorbed in seeking a shred of happiness. The speed of action and reaction is sufficient in the human realm for beings to focus and engage in developing practice; whilst not so fast that it is impossible to gain an alternative perspective. There is not the automatic, immediate response that is found in a hellish realm, whilst spaciousness and self-absorption are not so great that purpose and growth becomes lost, as in a god realm. The human realm beings’ ability to discriminate, to juxtapose concepts and be amused or startled by the result, offers the possibility of exploding the confines of referential view. The human ability to make leaps of perception enables them to effectively engage with spiritual practice.