“At the gathering point of the present, where all possible orders converge, known and unknown, fields of knowability, and all determining limits and boundaries come together. We are at the farthest extension of what the tempo and its communicated orders project. The limits of the knowable are precisely and multiply established, and we cannot go beyond them.”
Opening Unknown Time, Dynamics of Time and Space, Tarthang Tulku
The above quote is from a randomly selected part of another book in the TSK series. I think I’ll start doing this for a while, partly to give flavors of other ideas in this series, other presentations, and partly just to cover more. I’ve covered so little in so much time, and I’m ambitious to try to present moe of TSK vision.
As a side note, I realize TSK has its own vocabulary, and there is a series of books with exercises in them, but I hope it doesn’t seem like a cult of some sort. As far as I know, there are classes, in some of Tarthang Tulku’s centers, and some online classes, but that’s about it. Personally, I’ve just read the books and tried out some of the meditations/exercises. Nothing too wacky.
Back to the vocabulary. One thing that appeals to me about TSK is the use of language. I’ve had an ear for and an appreciation for language for a long time, and when philosophy or spiritual teachings work with the play of language, its beauty, complexity, and so on, this really hooks me. In the quote at the top, I liked the use of the image of the “gathering point” at which boundaries and limits converge. It’s a nice paradox, considering that, if boundaries are brought together into one point, they’re not exactly boundaries, as I see it: they’re a single point.
This makes me think of Trungpa Rinpoche’s use of the term “the dot,” or being “on the dot.” It makes me think of the present experience as being centralized in an odd way, but not in the self, or ego. In yesterday’s post I wrote a tiny bit about limitations as self-canceling, as in implying their own nonexistence or nonsolidity. I think this is the same idea.
Yesterday I also talked about the idea of paradox being problematic according to Tarthang Tulku. Maybe the problem is really that paradox introduces a logical problem, on a conventional level, implies a kind of solution in terms of two opposing things coexisting, but doesn’t explain this solution or coexistence completely enough. There’s an implied higher kind of logic, or jump beyond logic, but that’s it, an implication, not a really profound communication.
Good. So I think I understand the problem with accepting a paradox on its face. What about the gathering point image as a paradox? I think one way to explain it, not the best way, but one way, is to say it’s a transition from first to second level time. First level has a lot of limits and defining partitions, second level seems more to be about flow. By looking at the limits of conventional time as a gathering point, there’s an implied going beyond the gathering point: a transition to a higher time.
It’s still problematic in that the higher time is being explained in terms of a lower time, I think. Ie, it’s like talking about overcoming a problem like smoking cigarettes just in terms of the problem. Eventually, there is an implication that the problem is more solid and real than it actually is. I think about trying to lose weight, and thinking about it too much actually creates a weird sort of problem: it creates resistance, and builds the whole thing up into a drama in my mind, when the goal originally was just to do something, not to think about it until smoke started coming out of my ears.
Finally, I’ll go back to the first TSK book, what I was originally writing about. We’re still in the time section, and we’re going into a discussion of second level time. Rinpoche writes about the issue of trying to move beyond conventional first level time, and ending up only trading one set of concepts for another. I think this is always an issue on the path, and unavoidable.
“Essentially, what is needed is a more experiential acquaintance with time.”
Adopting new words and concepts is very limited. Actual experience is more helpful. Second level time has more to do with actual experience than first level time.
“Initially, second-level experience of ‘time’ may show it to be like a ‘flow’, or a flashing, dynamic factor. This is because our ordinary knowing makes it conform to our familiar serial progression of events…”
So, second level experiences have a distinctive feel, but this magical sense of flow or dynamic is more a translation, or hint, based on interpreting time on our old terms, in terms of our normal understanding of time.
Next time, more about the second level of time, the levels in general.
Quotes used with permission from Dharma Publishing. Books available from Dharma Publishing.