Last time I talked about habitual patterns, and time. I’ll keep going with that, and try to work a little more with quotes from the book, since I haven’t included much of that recently.
Tarthang Rinpoche writes about how difficult it is to break out of normal or “lower orders” of time and experience. We can meditate and practice and experience things shift, even have “peak experiences,” but then this often seems to fade into the background of the daily grind, and our habitual patterns, likes, dislikes, prejudices, scars, and so on, seem just as strong and persistent as ever.
“We get stuck in a certain track, stuck in terms of one set of meanings or another… This applies to conventional entities, as well as to the unconventional fantasy spaces that occupy that constitute the structure and limits of our reality.”
Getting stuck in a track is suffering, habitual patterns, samsara. Describing this as being stuck in “one set of meanings” is interesting, a new take, but it’s also the same thing. The process of meaning, the process of finding, creating, ignoring meaning puts you in a track. It nourishes and is nourished by habitual patterns.
If habitual pattern in and of itself doesn’t seem heinous, because some habits are positive or helpful, I think considering habits that are destructive and subtle could be worth doing. Ie, everyone has some parts of themselves that they are really uncomfortable with, that they really dislike, even hate. The point is not that this part of the self is bad, but that, I think, most people want this part out. Changing or becoming a better person is something most people want. In terms of meaning, the process of working with meaning feeds into both the struggle to “become better,” “grow up,” be nice, heal, etc., but also into the pull of the negative pattern, the part of you that you consider problematic. Why? Because habitual patterns depend on meaning, and one’s “issues” are a kind of habitual pattern.
The next part of this paragraph (and this is a little shocking to me, that there is so much to think about in one paragraph) is startling. Tarthang Tulku states that in terms of normal reality and fantasy realms or the supernatural, what have you, the fact that certain kinds of phenomena can be reproduced in controlled settings doesn’t mean that they are valid, just as the fact that certain phenomena can’t be reproduced consistently doesn’t mean that they are invalid.
Let me try to say this more clearly and succintly. Normal explanations of reality and experience are not valid simply because they fit a scientific model. They can’t just be explained away because a perceiver experiences these things.
“Rather, they are the way ‘time’ is playing.”
That was the part I found startling.
Let me go back to the not normal/not observer part and try to make that clearer; I don’t think I’ve done that yet. Just because I can observe that gravity functions consistently when I drop a spoon on the floor doesn’t in and of itself prove to me that the workings of gravity are simple or entirely consistent in the normal way people think. My observation of the thing is just an observation, so it’s limited, not to mention influenced by my perception. It’s influenced by perception not in some quantum sort of way, I don’t really understand that stuff, but in a simpler way.
Even with simple facts and figures, any perception gets fit into a soup of meanings, thoughts, ideas, memories, so it’s never just facts and figures. I think that works well enough- gravity seems like something we can’t argue with, but it’s not just ‘gravity,’ it’s an ingredient in a complex soup.
So that’s normal events not being normal. This speaks to events being influenced by perception. The soup has to do, in large part, with perception and meaning. But, as Tarthang Tulku writes, we can’t say it’s “just perception.” It is connected to some observable thing that happens. We have some instinct that something is going on.
According to Rinpoche, that something is time, the “play of time.”
Since I have written a lot, and don’t yet have a good understanding of what that means, I’ll stop there.
All quotations used with permission. Tarthang Tulku’s books available from Dharma Publishing.