This is both a continuation of my previous, lost post, and an attempt to wrap up the space part of the commentary. I will probably extend the space part for at least one or two more, since I’m trying to cover a lot of ground in one post.
As far as the last post, there was one part I wanted to rewrite. In the TSK book, Tarthang Tulku goes over possible misinterpretations or confusions of the ideas being presented. He does this in the context of the exercises in the book (these are ways that one could misunderstand the exercises or the outcome of the exercises). I think this could be applied to other meditative practices, possibly, but, more importantly in this context, these errors can be seen in light of space and TSK theory in general.
So here goes. Then I’ll move on to the next chapter.
1. “It’s all in the mind.” This is not being posited in TSK, unless one were to use the Buddhist mind/Mind distinction and somehow connect this to time, space and knowledge. However, I’m not personally trying to do that, and that is not exactly what Rinpoche means, anyway (he refers to “mentalism”). So, the idea is not that mind is the source of all things.
2. “This is just one person’s perspective.” In a sense, this is true, but TSK questions the validity of the solidity. Rinpoche writes that there may not be one truly solid here or perspective to view from. At the same time, this point of view, just one person’s perspective, begs the question: one person’s perspective on what? Which is, I guess, more or less what Rinpoche is saying.
3. “The mind makes the world.” Rinpoche seems to be questioning the idea of mind is in charge of things, running the show (whether or not we are in charge of the mind). Mind is said to be an output, not a generator. Again, it’s not the source.
4. and 5. “Be HERE now,” “Be here now.” Two of these points seem to relate to this instruction. I don’t think it’s all that bad. In fact, it probably has helped a lot of people. But Rinpoche questions it because it does solidify or conceptualize in more or less subtle ways. What is “here”? Is knowing here subtly buying into certain concepts of things and space and time? Being ‘here now’ can do the same, I think, and brings in time more fully (but again, could use ‘now’ in a way that supports conventional ideas of time).
6. “Sense data are real.” Rinpoche does not say that they aren’t. He does write, however, that we can assume that there are things or “regions” generating sense data. Even this basic assumption is questioned. A withdrawal from the world of experience is not being advocated here, but a further questioning of the nuts and bolts of lived experience.
7. “The self can surrender or be surrendered.” As with four and five, I think this instruction has some real value, but Rinpoche cirticisms also make sense. The problem with this idea is that often a subtle “self” is left over that does the surrendering. So the self that seemed problematic is still there in some way.
So, in a way, Rinpoche is blazing through various subtle and gross ideas and assumptions, in order to bring the reader or practitioner to a new experience. You think it is this, but it’s not… You think it’s that, but it’s not. And this is getting worked through in a pretty thorough way in TSK.
On to the next chapter. This one is entitled “Being in the World, Being Space and Time.” The chapter begins with a familiar call to arms: people tend to create and find spaces, in various ways. There is another way of living, space-related (this is hinted at), and it is somehow more fundamental than the conventional thing and space way of going about living. At the same time, the experiences involved in this journey are tied up with problematic concepts, so we need to do “a lot of challenging,” which is compared to “spring cleaning.”
Maybe it’s a little like drawing a good self-portrait. I don’t do any representational art these days, but when I was made to, in high school and a tiny bit in college, the self-portrait was one of the most challenging and uncomfortable parts. Looking in a mirror, sometimes, you’d try to recreat the image faithfully. But somehow, it looked off when you were done (or at least when I was done). My concepts of who I was, what I should look like, what a face should look like, got in the way of seeing clearly, and translating this into my hand and onto the page. Even as I improved at this (very slightly), those old habits and concepts skewed things. The way I learned was tied up in the old images I had of myself, and old face-drawing habits. I imagine at some point, good artists begin to be able to translate fluidly from sight to line. For me, I got a tiny bit closer, just slightly updating the old pictures and images and habits. I think some self-loathing definitely figured in, so to speak: I didn’t really want to portray the person I saw, as I was so uncomfortable with it (and still am, in a lot of ways).
So, back to the book. Rinpoche writes about challenging and investigating things as a path to Great Space. This is an interesting point to me. Not only are we questioning to find answers or understand better, but to find space itself. It’s almost like the questioning is aimed at an end of questioning. Maybe this is too simplistic (although total faith, doubtlessness, is an important part of the part for Buddhists- but maybe this is one area that doesn’t translate neatly over into TSK).
Finally, we get back to the ultimate at the end of this part. Rinpoche writes that, as we go through the process of questioning and practicing, our focus shifts. Space relates to interactions and (I would say) connections. Eventually, we want to go beyond the initial changes in perspective and find something more penetrating- Great Space. This involves accommodation on our part- for the immanence or accomodation of Great Space within all situations. It sounds as if one can find space for space itself, within situations. How does this happen? I’m not sure, but I would guess gradually, as a sort of illusory dance.
Since I have barely begun this chapter, I’ll try to wrap it up in one or two posts and then move on to knowledge.
Quotes used with permission from Dharma Publishing. Books available from Dharma Publishing.