“Mind, like space, has no foundation.” Tarthang Tulku, Time, Space, and Knowledge
We’re approaching the end of the space part of the book. This quote is one that I like, and one that I don’t think I need to offer much comment on. Rinpoche writes that, although mind is not a source or solid thing, we need to use it as a reference point until we gain certain realizations.
“This reference to mind and thoughts, however, involves the qualification that the mind does not do, the mind allows.”
This is somewhat mysterious to me, but I suppose it has to do with the concept of mind as not being a generator. But if the mind is baseless and not solid, how does it even allow? For that matter, how does space, in any large or small function “allow”?
Mind, according to TSK, is a “focal setting on space.” But if mind does not do, how is it that it can focus in this specific way?
Next, Tarthang Rinpoche goes through various kinds of exercises that can be worked through, involving the subject, object, and their interaction. We are reminded that the subject/object split, and all of the related interactions are not exactly “distortions” of Great Space, but are, in fact, space itself (not separate from it). This is the “ultimate” argument that should be familiar by now.
Rinpoche presents three ideas here: mind as separate from things, mind as Great Space (completely unified), and mind as focal setting on space (an intermediate step). My sense of this is that the latter gives a feel of space and not being located, but is still grounded in normal experiences of self and mind.
Finally, there is a discussion of the role of the self and being open in a spiritual context. Basically, being open is described as more useful for spiritual experience. The argument there, I believe, is that, since self is the issue, surrendering or opening puts the self in the background somewhat, and this allows more of whatever we’re after to flourish. The problem is that even this opening is the self opening, so, the self is still there. Rinpoche does hint, I think, that the self is too small to open to the “wide-angle” setting of Great Space- this kind of realization of openness is possible, but not with the self.
This more or less ends the chapter. The next chapter, which I’ll rush through, since there is another chapter to cover after that, begins by talking about awakening in the context of body and mind, and separation. Nothing entirely new. Rinpoche writes that we can transcend the body and mind setup, but not yet. There are more intermediate steps in this particular approach.
“Before such transcendence is possible, we need to first become more free of the tendency to structure appearance in terms of both static objects and the inner-outer dichotomy.”
This gets fleshed out by bringing up the ideas of “outsiders” or “outside-standers” and “bystanders.” There are, we’re told, no bystanders and no outside-standers. This is equivalent, I think, to saying there are no separate selves and things. But, of course, selecting and working with these terms creates a certain environment. Just thinking about and maybe picturing what bystanders and outsiders might be, various things come up. One that strikes me now is the sense of loneliness and isolation. Of course, that’s personal and specific for me right now, but it’s also related to TSK vision: part of the vision is based on the journey towards intimacy and unity in life, from being a bystander who lives in the midst of outside standers.
Of course, there is no separation: between self and things, and between confusion and enlightenment. Is being able to say that with some conviction an accomplishment? I really don’t know. Traditionally, it’s said that if negative emotions and hardness of heart decrease, one is on the right path. If they increase, you’re off track. So I think that can be applied when intellectual understanding pops up: how can I apply this where I need it? How can I connect this with bodhicitta, the good heart?
And at the same time, no separation, while relating to no coming and going, no generation, no location, is in some ways too simple. So I think we’ll explore more complexities of this setup, the separation and connection and disconnection, as we flourish through and finish up the space part of the first TSK book.
Quotes used with permission from Dharma Publishing. Books available from Dharma Publishing.