“With a different language, we could activate the potential of language as a resource for knowing that went deeper than the structures of the temporal order.” Tarthang Tulku, Knowledge of Time and Space
This comes from a chapter in the KTS book about language (obviously). One point of said chapter seems to be that language tends to confirm and solidify normal time and space structures. What does that mean? It means that due to its being basically conceptual, and to its generally assuming things and events to be real, language tends to help in ego’s ongoing quest for security, its quest to fortify space.
At the same time, though, language can challenge itself, as happens in TSK a lot. And then, according to Tarthang Tulku, through this challenge, something good can emerge: a new kind of knowledge.
This is very similar to what happens through becoming friends with space, as I’ve been writing about. So, in one sense, language can become part of the process of befriending space. Language’s stickiness can be used to build, or to explode.
But maybe that’s too simplistic. The process of building, or exploding, can be used intelligently: we can explode stale language, and rebuild. Or we can build with knowledge, intelligence, wisdom, which is building with space, in a sense (and thus explosion-proof, in that it’s already space, or maybe not, but in any case it is already space, so there’s no problem).
There is a self-conscious to this process, to experience, even to things, maybe, that can be brought along. The words in your mind come along, as space expands and contracts.
There is a thing called “language.”
In the book, last time, I also touched on the idea of thoughts as not coming or going. This is related to the idea of mind as not originating. This is experiential, I think it’s safe to say, but also another angle on space: if mind is space as much as anything else, then mind can’t be a solid generator, like a power plant churning out a current. It has to be something else.
Rinpoche continues to talk about this, thoughts and their nature:
“The ‘movement’ of thoughts… can be seen to involve a kind of persuasive efficacy- thoughts range over the world of meaningful things, selecting out and manipulating items, doing things, carrying conviction. The apparent movement of thoughts owes much to their dynamic character as meaning-bearers.”
The last point is one I feel I can relate to. In general, what is being said is that thoughts have both a structuring and playing aspect, and an aspect that contains a charge, a force, a magnetism. They’re not just flickers, but have qualities, direction, flow. Their role in relating to meaning, creating meaning, identifying meaning is related to this force. We have to make sense of things somehow. Thoughts help.
Thoughts are also not bad. This is a very tricky point, I think, but one I want to highlight quickly. Meditators, especially newer ones, I think, try to get rid of, or suppress, or quiet thoughts. This is often assumed to be a result of “good” meditation or practice- no thoughts, or less thoughts, at least. This is generally incorrect. No thoughts would be a kind of “peak experience,” but peak experience is not at all the point of meditating.
In the next paragraph, Rinpoche talks a little about the nature of thoughts perceived as time and space. I think this is interesting. Generally, I do think of thoughts as words or speech that moves through the space of my mind. This is easily challenged, though. My mind is not a space in the sense of a room. Thoughts in time can’t really be measured or captured or weighed. The conclusion, we’re told, is that thoughts go nowhere, they don’t come or go.
This is another fine point, and one I want to leave somewhat open. I think you could take the view that thoughts come and go in certain ways, and that, along with practice, would probably be good. I think you could go along with this TSK way of viewing things, and say that thoughts do not come or go.
Next, Rinpoche says that things, not being solid, do not “establish,” at least from a space perspective. This is true, also, of thoughts. They do not establish anything. In the classic meditation instruction, it’s just “thinking.”
Finally, we get to an exercise that works with the “spaces between thoughts.” I think it’s perfectly valid to challenge this on the grounds that thoughts are not established (since thoughts are space, finding space between them is not meaningful). At the same time, it’s an exercise, and probably could lead to certain benefits.
I don’t know. I haven’t really tried it. Rinpoche discusses next the implications of the exercise. Skimming this part, I do want to say that:
1. This is not a beginner exercise, in my opinion. Finding these spaces is challenging.
2. This brings us back to the idea of not thinking as good.
This is, again, problematic. To put another spin on it, there is the intuition that there is something problematic about the way people generally relate with thoughts. Why?
1. Thoughts can obscure more intense sensory and feeling experiences. These experiences are worth having. Why? We have choices, as far as experience, and having a blunted or dulled experience of a sound or sight, versus a vivid or intense one might not be attractive. That’s a matter of choice, I guess, and not as easy as it might seem.
2. Thoughts are not reality per se. At the same time, they seem to be inseparable from reality.
3. Part of human misery, especially when suffering is not related to just intense physical pain, is related to the function of thinking. Your own thinking makes you unhappy. So unraveling how this misery arises, in regards to thoughts, including language, could be related to unraveling the misery itself. Suffering is related to thoughts.
So even if you don’t want to look at thoughts this way, in terms of space, in terms of going and coming, in terms of language, there is some feeling, I think, that they are problematic. And that in itself is extremely precious, extremely valuable.
Quotes used with permission from Dharma Publishing. Books available from Dharma Publishing.