“All our observations of apparent exceptions to Great Space can be reconciled with it. The reality of discrete entities… must be considered in light of the conditioning space which determines these boundaries. This conditioning space is, in turn, an expression of Great Space.” Tarthang Tulku, Time, Space, and Knowledge
As we near the end of this chapter, the discussion in the book focuses on lower space and Great Space. Although we associate Great Space with less restriction, confusion, and unneccessary boundary, it is not separate from lower space. That is to say, although enlightened mind seems different from confused mind, they are not separate. If they were, maybe there would be no way to bridge the gap. If they were different, enlightened mind probably wouldn’t be as big or as great as it is supposed to be.
So there’s the different/not separate paradox. On top of that, we go back to the difference- still, even accepting on some level that buddha nature is our nature, or that Great Space is not separate from lower spaces, confusion and pain do exist in a very real way. We do experience being crushed by a lack of space. We do experience the wildness and roughness of our minds, with all of their selfishness, reactivity, and dramatic appeal.
So Rinpoche comments on this. We do have to do something. I think in some traditions just being in the presence of a realized teacher is said to be enough to remove the razor-thin barrier between confusion and buddha. In TSK, and most or all Buddhism, we need some sort of practice (which could be said to include study).
And this brings us to the end of the first chapter. It took a long time to get there. At the end of this part, Tarthang Tulku does mention that this is just a summary, and the following part will focus on a more experiential approach. This is a popular term, I think, and for good reason: it’s important to experience the teachings in a variety of ways, and in depth, to feel them. It’s like water and a tea bag- you drop the bag in, and then it infuses the water. Well, some practices infuse the water faster or stronger than others, depending on the kind of tea, and the water. But overall, it’s almost impossible to get a cup of tea by just reading about it, or by putting the tea bag next to a kettle. We have to experience the teachings.
… if we’re going to experience them. If we’re interested (and maybe a little desperate). That did it for me. I was interested, and desperate.
So as far as experience, if anyone ever reads this, I encourage you to find in person instruction. Reading is great, but live in person instruction is like boiling the water. It makes for better tea.
As far as the experiential quality of the next section, Rinpoche introduces a variety of body-based visualizations and exercises. I have done this a bit, but not much. I did receive some instruction in what’s called by some teachers the “body scan”- meditating on feeling in the body.
So I think I will add this to my practice schedule as I write about the next part. I won’t be able to say much about the “Giant Body” exercises. I don’t want to fake it or try to “transmit” something I cannot. But maybe a body-based meditation will complement the next section. I’ll end with a quote from the next chapter, which emphasizes the body. It will be interesting to write about this in both the context of TSK, and the current landscape of Buddhist practice in the West, where body-based techniques are becoming more popular and accepted.
“Our bodies are a central focus for our experiences as human beings. Therefore, it is important to carefully examine what typically makes up our conception of a ‘body’- for the ‘typical’ is taken for granted all too often.”
Quotes used with permission from Dharma Publishing. Books available from Dharma Publishing.