I’m writing this after a particularly delightful day. I’ve been teaching English as a second language for about two months now, and yesterday’s class was wonderful. I was very happy. And of course, today is a little bit of a letdown. I always want that high to continue. Part of that’s me, and part of that’s just human nature, I think.
One of the first Buddhist type things I started thinnking about, when I started reading and meditating was about this pattern of highs and lows, and habits. Everyone has habits that are designed to minimize lows and prolong highs, and these habits don’t work.
That’s one particular way of talking about the first noble truth, known as ‘suffering’. I’ve heard it presented various ways; sometimes depressing, sometimes more rational or scientific, sometimes in terms of anxiety. There’s something freeing about just thinking and feeling that, however. We try to stay high, and that does not work. It will not ever work.
I think it’s pleasant to have that hit home, even in a small way, because on some level we already are aware of that- we keep trying to stay ‘happy’ and there’s something so desperate about it, the whole enterprise, all the patches, all the expressions.
So it’s not depressing, at least that’s not the intention at all. Not at all. By touching in with the unsatisfying nature of the process of addiction to happiness, a specific superficial kind of happiness, I think you can start to find real satisfaction, whatever that might mean for you.
Now I’m trying to write about TSK, so I could translate the above terms into TSK terms, and try to make it all connect. But I think that would be too artificial here. I want to try to loop back to the suffering/addiction discussion later on.
I’m working on the end of the time section in the book. So I’m writing about third level/Great Time.
So far, in the book, Tarthang Tulku has presented a description of Great Time, in terms of play with Great Space, and intimacy, and being a ‘bearer’. Interesting, that as we get up to ‘higher levels’ it seems less clear which of Time, Space, or Knowledge we are talking about. At the third level of time, the intimacy with space is emphasized, which is not far from knowledge (since knowledge is, as I see it, the interaction of time and space).
Rinpoche goes through the kind of perfection there is at this level: he describes this interplay of time and space as intimacy that produces knowledge, like a family, with knowledge as child. This manifests in different forms that can be appreciated, or it can be ‘strayed’ from. The third level is perfection, so it can never be strayed from, but the path involves seeing how we lose it, how we forget, so there is straying on some level.
How does that work? On lower levels, there is more straying, on higher ones, less. This is not saying that enlightened gurus are more enlightened than us (although they are, if they are really enlightened). I’m saying that the confusion is deeper on lower levels. The sense of separate self and objects is deeper. Desires and addictions being deeper would go along with that, I guess. The twist is that at the level of Great Time, the confusion of lower levels is not a problem.
One example: I remember meeting an old friend’s father when I was in high school. Said father was a seasoned meditator and practitioner, a warm person, overall someone I’m still very fond of. I was somewhat more crazy then, in high school, than I am now, but he immediately took a liking to me, and my ornery self. My friend told me that he ‘thought you were a buddha… but then again, he thinks everyone’s a buddha.’
That’s one way of explaining that perfection- it’s potential that is not AT ALL scarred or polluted by addiction, negative emotions, or being a crazy teenager (or adult).
Now for a little quote, and I’ll end things for now:
“When fully appreciated, Great Time is seen to be a kind of perfectly liquid, lubricious dimension- it is quintessentially ‘slippery’. For this reason- although there seem to be movement and separate places to move to on the first level, and still more open, fluid possibilities on the second level- on the third level there is no ‘going’ and no separate places… So, from a third level point of view, an eternity of ‘straying’ still leaves us very much ‘at home’, intimately united.” TSK
If the perfection of reality were strayable, if we could leave it, it would not be perfect. It is my understanding that seeing this, in a small way, and working on our real world flaws and addictions and ways of harming, creates a kind of feedback loop— Everything is perfect beyond understanding, and yet I’m still so messed up, and somehow I can work towards that perfection that can’t be approached… Somehow that cognitive dissonance works for our benefit, maybe creating what is called the intoxication of mind. In my experience this is utterly different from the highs of drugs, the highs of ego, and is also very different from a ‘quiet mind.’
Quotes used with permission from Dharma Publishing.