“Contemplating space- as a result of pushing our examination of existence as far as we can- actually guides our awareness into new types of spaces, until we can reach a kind of space that is, in more than a symbolic way, the ground of everything.” Tarthang Tulku, Time, Space, and Knowledge
This is a description of what we’re doing, or trying to do. It summarizes the goal and process of the space element nicely. It is also very similar to the way some teachers talk about Dzogchen. At least, it is similar to an introduction to Dzogchen: the kid-level stuff that I’ve been able to hear and read, as new as I am to the path.
It’s also interesting that Rinpoche one on hand seems to give a simple explanation of what we’re doing: using a certain concept to push our awareness in a certain direction until… something is discovered. This doesn’t sound all that different from meditation. It doesn’t sound outlandish, at leas to me, although I’ve always been somewhat outlandish to begin with. But there’s a twist, also: Rinpoche says that examining existence expands our understanding. This seems easy enough. Any kind of analysis, contemplation, inquiry does this. But then where do we go? Into new kinds of spaces! At first, it seems common sense, but then: we explore space to go into space.
Maybe there is some secret that Buddhist masters have in presenting teachings- in fact I’m sure there are quite a few. But it does seem like I see this a lot- I almost have it pinned down, and then there’s the complication to make the argument spin off.
At this point, I think the best I can do is to say that good teachers are not slaves to conventional logic. I say conventional logic because I do think there are “higher logics,” although I’m not together enough to be able to present that any more clearly. At a meditation seminar I asked a teacher about a particular topic. It related to a teaching on one of the “four dignities” of the Shambhala teachings. This way of being, or style of working with energies, people, things is called “inscrutability.” It’s not the same as what is normally called inscrutable (ie being closed, mysterious, or unreadable).
The teacher claimed that at a high level of realization, in terms of “inscrutable,” there is no logic. I asked him about this, making it clear that I disagreed. I think there is conventional logic, and then a certain sophisticated, subtle logic that structures the actions, teachings, and so on, of great teachers. He disagreed- no logic, he said. I think I understand this line of reasoning, but I still disagree. And this is what I see happening in the quote I gave about space. There is so much going on, and Tarthang Tulku:
1. Explains space as a process of mind exploration in a way that is straightforward.
2. Uses the term space in a way that is also confusing, being both somewhat straightforward, and metaphorical, dealing in both figurative meaning, and a meaning that relates to psychological states as well as physical locations.
Something happens in the static electricity generated by the friction of these meanings. One thing, I think, is that we are pushed beyond the words. Something beyond the words is suggested just by the fact that the words confuse and swirl.
This discussion follows the “space is projecting space into space” part. Again, intoxicating.
Rinpoche states that either this idea will seem nonsensical, or will not be applicable to everyday life. So, either the idea of objects as spaces, or containing space, or the idea of space somehow “projecting” will seem crazy, or even accepting some or all of these, nothing will change. As I’ve said before, TSK doesn’t aim to just be mental meanderings. It does aim to liberate. Enlightenment is never mentioned, as far as I know, but freedom from limitations, knowledge, and joy are certainly.
So the first quote relates to the problem encountered with the “space is…” part. Even if there doesn’t seem to be a flash of enlightenment, contemplating space in a variety of ways can have an impact.
Do we become lighter, as in fancy free? Or as in losing weight, like yoga teachers with beautiful bodies? Do we have to wait for enlightenment. Well, yes, probably, I think so. I think the gradual path is a good model. At the same time, a very lovely and beguiling thing about said path is that you don’t know how you’ll change. Goals of kindness, lightness, beauty, intelligence are useful in many ways, but then we don’t know what we’ll look like.
Quotes used with permission from Dharma Publications. Books available from Dharma Publications.