Spacious Passion

Chapter 4 – Coming up for Air

struggle & relaxation

Q: It sounds like only the god realm beings get a good deal! [laughter]. Only they seem to experience any sense of their sphere being satisfying.

NN: All the realms experience some form of satisfaction – satisfaction that my attack hurt the other person; satisfaction that I am real because I am hungry and there is something to crave; satisfaction that I have created a secure nest; satisfaction that I know who I am and fit into society; and satisfaction that my ambition is moving me up the ladder towards godhood. The satisfaction of the god realm is totally self-absorbed. However, in hurting the other person I also hurt myself. Perhaps I have a moment of realising that I am always hungry and never really satisfied. I may become suspicious of the substantiality and security of my little nest. I start to wonder why I limit myself by fitting into my chosen niche. The struggle of striving to reach the top finally exhausts me, or I suddenly have a moment of doubt about myself. Then there is the possibility of change, of movement. If we engage in activity that encourages that opening of view, then anything becomes possible, but usually we retract and consolidate. It doesn’t occur to the gods to be kind. They do not connect with other beings’ worlds. They do not have the concept of happiness or unhappiness – there is simply the self-referential complacency of themselves.

Q: Why are there said to be more beings in the lower realms than the higher realms?

NN: The process of movement is struggle and relaxation. If you struggle, you move down,; if you relax, you move up. Generally we struggle because this is form. Relaxation is empty and this is what we run away from or try to ignore, so relaxation is more unusual.

As the path of spontaneity, the methods of Dzogchen are fantastically subtle. The opportunity to embrace experience from the Dzogchen perspective is ever-present, but those who have received Dzogchen teaching recognise that they are not always at the base of Dzogchen view. The base of this view is non-duality – the experience of the non-duality of emptiness and form in the moment. To be ever-present at this base, would mean we are also both fully engaged with the path, and realising the fruit of the practice in the moment. This is realisation and we must acknowledge that we are not always present in the base, path, and fruit of Dzogchen. Hence practitioners of lineages based in Dzogchen also practice Tantra and Sutra. From the perspective of Dzogchen, Tantra and Sutra are not seen as lesser vehicles – it is a question of pragmatics and being genuine about the view one is able to live at any moment in time. The most efficacious practice is always that which enables one to return to openness, and to the possibility of the direct experience of the non-duality of emptiness and form.