“Eventually we can discover a space that involves no concepts at all, since concepts are simply indications of the relative opacity and resistance of a particular space.” Tarthang Tulku, Time, Space, and Knowledge
In this quote, “a space,” and focal setting seem very close, if not the same. Rinpoche writes that ideas, concepts, and so forth are based on the kind of space which they originate from or represent.
I think it’s safe to safe that the whole TSK project is a matter of working with focal settings. It might be inaccurate, but I think we can equate focal setting with perspective, and say that the whole project has to do with working with perspective.
In the discussion that follows the excerpt above, lower and greater spaces are discussed, and spaces are synonymous with focal settings. Maybe the main distinction is that a space indicates a kind of visual shape with certain walls or boundaries, while a focal setting does not (to me it suggests a person looking at a picture or a situation).
Now, as far as concepts/no concepts, I think this is interesting, especially in regards to language. I ususally tend to think of concepts in terms of language: on one hand, concepts are not there, on the other, they develop along with language in order to communicate and foster understanding. But Rinpoche doesn’t use the language dimension so much here. The idea seems to be that certain spaces are associated with certain concepts, which relate to the boundaries and “resistance and opacity” of those spaces.
What are resistance and opacity? Does language have a place in this particular discussion? I think resistance here relates to the tenacity any perspective or way of seeing things has to changing. As part of having perspectives, we tend to fit things into them. That’s a function of perspective, and indicates a kind of intelligence and strength. I think it’s also just part of the process of interpreting experience. We experience, and categorize. That categorizing can limit our experience and our being, and things are often put into the wrong “boxes”: that’s a kind of resistance, the resistance to new experiences, or to opening up.
Opacity means the same thing, although it’s more visual than resistance, which seems feeling-based or kinesthetic to me. Within a perspective, it’s hard sometimes to see out of it, or to see its limitations.
This brings me to a point I sort of wanted to write about, but sort of wanted to avoid, since it’s personal, and is related to complaints that I’ve developed. Anyway, here it is: it’s popular among some people these days to adopt a sort of style of openness or openness to learning even as a posture. I am sure I do this too sometimes. It’s very easy to talk about seeing things from different perspectives, or to talk about being more open to some things, but not so easy to realize it. One reason for that is that it’s scary. Another is that the process of allowing one’s perspective to grow or shift can be disorienting. One’s perspective, the space one is comfortable in, has a lot to do with self-definition. And not being sure of who you are can feel like going crazy. But I don’t think it is, when it’s done well. That’s a key point.
So it’s traditional to say, more or less: practice, and find a community. And not just an “online community,” which is easy, but one with flesh and blood people who will push you a little. Those two things are safeguards against becoming confused, and also ways to move the process of being on the path forward.
Quotes used with permission from Dharma Publishing. Books available from Dharma Publishing.