“By opening ourselves up to’time’, it can act and speak more freely through us.”
Tarthang Tulku, Time, Space, and Knowledge
This is the same thing as skillful means, or synchronizing mind and body. Talking about it this way is a little careless, but it also points out something that is valuable and recognizable: no matter if you think ‘the spiritual’ is crazy, if your view of the path is restricted to certain narrow terms, if your view of the path is a matter of picking and choosing what seems nice or interesting, there is something inherently valuable about the kind of action being described: synchronized, in line with what is happening right now.
This is the last post on the time section. In a way I’m scrambling to summarize and tie up loose ends, even though this is hopeless: my own experience is so limited, and TSK is so vast and complex; it would take someone wiser than me to write succintly about this body of teachings.
But as far as summary goes, I think the quote at the top is a good place to stop. I picked an excerpt from the very end of the time section on purpose (Rinpoche is doing his own version of summing things up, and I get to rebroadcast that in some form).
Actually, what I think I’ll do is this, before I get to the main topic. I want to summarize some of the things I’ve talked about in even more general terms, making the scope wider, making things even a bit vaguer and fuzzier. Here’s a list:
1. There is more to time than people normally imagine or feel.
2. The experience of time and time as happening are inseparable (in the same way that mind and reality are inseparable). This relates to #1.
3. Examinations of lower level time are not entirely negative, but often focus on the nature of limitation, narrowness, habit.
4. Lower level ‘stuff’ is thinglike.
5. This thing-nature is something deconstructed in TSK and in Buddhist practice. Probably in many traditions, but my knowledge is limited.
6. The highest level of time is all pervasive, and so it runs counter to second level ‘progress’, ‘development’, ‘growth’, etc.
7. Intimacy is described both in terms of experience of fruition, and the interaction of time and space- it’s both developed on the path, and the way things ‘are’.
So much for the list. Now, the other thing I wanted to write about was the concept of ‘read out’. This shows up in TSK in many places. It has something to do with perception, and how things are ‘given’- ie, generated from something, not just ‘real things’, not just some sort of hallucination or product of the mind. In this concept, things can be ‘a read out’, like a receipt or meter reading, they can be ‘read out’, transmitted, communicated.
On page 194, we get a good discussion of the read out. Rinpoche begins by stating that once we start to be more aware of time, experiences of things are in themselves challenges to thing-ness. I think there are different ways of interpreting this, and probably different levels of experiencing this, but a basic way is in terms of ‘mindfulness’.
This basic Buddhist concept is often taught early on. One aspect of it, one aspect I experienced, was just a sharpening or focusing of the senses. It’s easy to go around assuming that things are a certain way, and often this assumption means not really seeing, hearing, tasting, and so on, in a very direct way. That is an appreciation of nonthingness, in that the ‘thing’ was the concept you had before you focused your awareness through a sense. Then the re-directed sense, the more vivid sense is the undoing of the thing (into a new thing, but that seems to be unavoidable). In a very real sense, this is ‘gvien by time’ in that things are always evolving and decaying and shifting based on myriad factors that always have some basis in time.
A piece of paper I see on the table is actually changing. I can say that it ‘is change’, but that’s the same thing. And the way it changes is based on atmosphere, the composition of the paper, my eyesight, and at the same time, those three factors depend on time to function. Is time just perception, some subtle element of perception that has to be there? I don’t think so, unless your understanding of what perception is is very broad or deific. Is time some sort of god, or primal force? I don’t think so, unless the understanding of force is connected to perception, and parsed out in a very accurate way. I will venture one positive statement: time is everything, and time is one side of everything as it happens.
Back to the read out. I was saying that things in themselves suggest nonthingness, and in TSK appreciating time is one way in.
“Seen as given by time, each situation is, at least potentially, through its connection to Great Time, infinite or all-embracing.”
Rinpoche wrote about the suggestions of things as change as being more 1st or 2nd level. The above quote sounds more like the third level. We’re being drawn through the levels. How are situations infinite in this case? I think through time/change itself: everything’s always moving and changing. That’s what is infinite, and eternal. Rinpoche goes on to say that the conventional content of these situations is not, however, meaningful in itself or in relation to other situations.
I interpret this as meaning that there is an experience of the infinite within phenomena, via their movement; at the same time, this experience of Great Time is not a meaning, either in that moment or in terms of other moments.
“The term ‘read out’ is a reminder that particular appearances are the informing, communicative by ‘time’ of a particular focal setting on ‘space’.”
There follows a few pages of discussion of different aspects of the idea of read-out. But the quote I used gives a good sense of it: read-outs have to do with there being a perspective in play which informs things. These perspectives tend to be subtle, or very subtle, and mold our life. TSK tries to find a way out of the read-outs, the perspectives integrated into experience that naturally tend to constrain it. Rinpoche does go on to say that from a second-level perspective, experiences are not continuous. In the same way, things aren’t there.
“We do not have to go a certain way… The same is not the same. Sameness is a matter of conviction within a read-out… It is just a message that things are or have been a certain way… This is a subtle way in which ‘space’ shines through (and along with) the obscuring tangle of ‘things’.”
So things could be different. Time and space could be different. Continuity and gaps could be different. Notice the use of space in the last two quotations: as time progresses, it become space.
And that is my commentary on the time section. Next I’ll start to write about space.
Quotes used with permission from Dharma Publishing. Books available from Dharma Publishing.
I’m going out to watch the storm.