“The presentation of ordinary solid things can itself be seen as an intense interacting or intimacy.”
Tarthang Tulku, Time, Space, and Knowledge
This time, instead of starting off with a quote drawn from somewhere else in the TSK books, I took one from the section I’m commenting on. I want to push ahead. On a related note, there is a structure to this project (at least, right now). I’ll be writing 27 posts on Time, Space, and Knowledge, and then a final 27 attempting some kind of summary or integration. The number 108 is considered very auspicious in Buddhism. I also like structures and numbers in themselves, and it helps me organize the whole thing. This means that we’re approaching the end of the time section. This means that I need to move a little faster and cover more ground.
That will be hard, because of my style, and because of the density of the book. Now, about the quote that I started with.
This quote shows a few things. First, ‘intimacy’ plays a large role in TSK vision, in the same realm as ‘light’- positive, and an end-goal of sorts. Second, presentation is important, especially in terms of second level time. I think there might be something to intensity as well: second level time here seems connected to going beyond first level experiences, and making progress as a practitioner or student.
Intensity has a place there. In my experience, you need some intensity in order to grow: intensity in the form of desperation, just in order to try something to feel better, and something beyond TV or beer or reading magazines. And you need some intensity of practice too. Having a regular practice is fantastic, but it’s good, I think to push it once you have that regular practice: to practice a little more than the standard ten minutes in the morning, or whatever you normally do. I find that I develop a tolerance for regular practice easily these days, and practicing a little more helps with this. Finally, the experience of the intensity of life itself is one byproduct: both good and bad seem to be more vivid. Trungpa Rinpoche describes this as being raw flesh, if my memory serves. Not only is the armor being removed, the skin that protected you is being stripped off. Things start to feel more electric. At that point it’s not entirely pleasant, but I think at that point you’ve also committed to the degree that you can’t back out anyway.
I think an element of that process is that those intensified experiences, raw experiences, were there in some form anyway before I started practicing. The covering up is just breaking down. And of course, this makes you practice more, to cope.
That description of things is more Buddhist, but it’s similar to the second level time talk in TSK. It’s transitional, in one form, from first to third: third, as deep realization, first as normal grid-like experience.
‘Perhaps the most seductive trap and the pinnacle of second-level experiences is the feeling of intimacy or mutual interpenetration on a cosmic scale…”
So there’s talk of intimacy again. And there’s an emphasis on experience, and experience that is not thing-based. It’s interconnection based.
I think it’s worth saying that the model being explored discounts second level stuff as a step on a ladder, but that those experiences being described are both valuable and not easy to get to. Not that I’ve had all of them, or that there’s a set roadmap, but having even one taste of ‘mutual interpenetration’ of things is notable.
I remember when I started meditating, just for a few minutes a day, and how things just seemed different after, and how the practice itself seemed so real and so essential. I have trouble putting that into words. But I felt this quiet but strong push to do it, that there was something to be discovered there. At the same time, it was challenging. Five minutes felt like a struggle.
In terms of intimacy, and feelings or hints of interdependence, I think in some ways I skipped over that to the next step. Getting an intellectual understanding of teachings can be a trap. Of course, the dharma is the biggest trap of all, and once you’re in there’s no way out, at all. That’s why some teachers warn you when you start. Trungpa Rinpoche famously told people to leave at the beginning of some talks, if they hadn’t already gotten involved in meditation etc.
What I mean about skipping over is that the next part of Tarthang Tulku’s argument is that intimacy and interdependence, the second level EXPERIENCES are experiences, and as such, conceptual.
“However, such ideas regarding Space, Time, and what is fundamentally real are only applicable on a second stage view of time. They are more apt and more experientially grounded than on the first stage. But they are still not the third stage view, because there remains the view that there is something.”
This is transitioning from second to third stage.
But what I was saying is that I have, and it’s possible to, with enough thought, jump past opening the heart in some ways, past certain experiences via an intellectual process: understanding that intimacy and various things are conceptual. But they’re also very important.
But like I said, the dharma, which I’m using to include Buddhist thought and TSK, is like net. It’s a good net. Once you’re in, you’re in. I’m finding that even if I’ve skipped over parts of my practice, I have to come back to them anyway later on. It’s a messy, organic, process, and one that is, as one of my teachers called it, ‘flawless’.
Quotes used with permission from Dharma Publishing. Books available from Dharma Publishing.