I started off in one direction, talking about the Tibetan New Year, planning to move on to calendar time, and how I’ve been thinking about that as I work on the Time/Space/Knowledge teachings. But then, as I went to turn down the volume on my little radio, I kicked the cord on my computer, and shut it off.
The post was gone, and getting back online, with a not state of the art computer, and dicey internet service took about forty minutes or so.
So I’m scrapping that direction. Back to the book.
“Aside from the familiar observed space of our realm, a more pervasive condition which could be called ‘lower space’ is also present…”
What follows is a discussion of lower space, or lower-level space. Tarthang Tulku compares it to a petty bureaucrat, a possibly corrupt bureaucrat: we are given orders and instructions that could represent the force of some larger government, but maybe just the official itself. This is a metaphor for lower space, or the way a kind of focal setting works.
In fact, Rinpoche goes on to state there is a kind of constriction to each “space” or focal setting. What is the distinction here between space and focal setting? I think they’re very close. A focal setting can be associated with a particular space. Space is larger than a given focal setting associated with it. At the same time, since everything is space in its own way, focal settings have to be spacelike: they transform one kind of space into another.
“There are infinitely many different spaces deriving from different ‘focal’ or epistemic settings. Each space has its own subtly limiting dynamics.”
Rinpoche then goes on to say that the point is not to just explore various spaces. I take this to mean that the point is not to explore different states of mind, or different interesting experiences, like a kind of tourist, or a person at a buffet. He suggests that what can come out of a well-guided exploration of space is a proper “ordering” of spaces. I interpret this to mean that we can learn to recognize how our focal settings work, and to recognize different kinds of space.
In this sense, TSK vision is extremely hierarchical, extremely linear, extremely gridlike. This is in contrast to, and coexists with, the open vision of Great Space, or, as I like to call it, perfection.
I’d like to keep this one short today. Before I end, though, a little more about recognizing and ordering spaces. How might this work? I think in terms of emotional and intellectual experience, this means becoming more self-aware, in a way that is sensitive, precise, and grounded. Experiencing feelings means experiencing space and energy. There is energy, and space around it allowing it to manifest. Then again, the energy is itself space, not solidified at all, and the space is energetic, interacting with and, according to these teachings, allowing, the energy. That’s my personal intepretation of recognizing spaces in regards to emotions.
Of course, recognizing spaces also means being aware of more and more subtle experiences, and these do somehow seem to relate to physical boundaries and physical space. Just think of how certain streets have a feeling to them, or seem to draw certain kinds of experience. In a basic way, tight versus open spaces seem to have certain things to tell us: about our own anxiety, our flexibility, how our bodies and minds work together.
Happy Tibetan New Year!
All quotes used with permission. Books available from Dharma Publications.