“Ancient teachings speak of the Kali Yuga, a time when patterns of darkness, oppression, and not-knowing are in the ascendancy… Whether we find this picture accurate or not, it does suggest an interesting relationship between time and knowledge. According to this view, time as it manifests in history can take on different qualities and stand in different relationships with knowledge.” – Tarthang Tulku, Dynamics of Time and Space
The workings of time as energetic force, manifesting force, and time as more concrete historical movements and shifts are both explored in TSK. In this blog, in the first TSK book, the former seem to be more at the fore. However, looking at time in a more historical way does happen more in other TSK books.
I picked this quote mostly because it reminds me of Trungpa Rinpoche’s Shambhala teachings on the four seasons, and lha, nyen, and lu, as ways of understanding the movements of the natural world, and the shifts in situations in other forms. The example Tarthang Tulku gives next, in “Dynamics,” after the above quotation, speaks to this, and is very close to what Trungpa Rinpoche said: in our lives, we have times that mirror shifts in the seasons, or historical shifts. There is cold winter, and abundant autumn. There are times of exciting innovation and discovery, and dark ages.
This stuff is material I’ve been both thinking about and trying to practice and work into my daily affairs. Of course, the skeptic in me finds this spiritually materialistic, and a pathetic attempt to create meaning, structure, and control where there is none, or none that I can grasp fully at this stage in my journey. This kind of perspective sees the change of seasons as just the way the natural world functions; it may be pretty, even powerful in some ways, but not really more significant than having lungs and a heart.
Of course, I don’t agree with this. Having brilliant teachers like the two men I’ve mentioned support the view of time I’m talking about helps. It’s not as simple as that. But then, I’m also not trying to convince anyone but myself at this point, and I’m mostly convinced anyway.
Pretty convenient. Back to the knowledge part of the first TSK book. Last post, I wrote a little bit about critiques of various attempts at knowledge, belief systems and so forth. It came down to the idea that it is probably a good idea to not just accept dogma. Investigation, questioning, some effort, are probably good things in anyone’s quest for knowledge. In this way, TSK as a scaffolding for investigation, inquiry, mind expansion, seems like a good potential add-on for any spiritual seeker. Let me follow that by saying that Pema Chodron’s suggestion to pick “one boat” to get to the other side is also, I think, very very good advice. Being a professional seeker without one home, one tradition, sampling here and there as is convenient and pleasant, is dangerous (and not in a good way). So I’m saying TSK can be a good utensil, but I think picking one dish to eat is best.
So much for the spiritual metaphors. I think of a million a day, so at least be glad I’m not throwing in all of them. So the chapter ended with the limitations of some approaches, and the need for not automatically buying into dogma.
“So far we have been perfect believers. What is the remedy? ‘Knowledge’, inner intelligence, vigorous appreciation.” Time, Space, and Knowledge
The next chapter begins with more objections to conventional knowledge. This kind of knowledge, Rinpoche writes, does not allow for a real critique of itself. It is all “minding,” all beliefs. Somehow, this system becomes self-referential or a closed loop. In this way, it becomes stuck. A good example, I think, would be if a group of friends, or a church, or meditation group, starts to develop very specific terms and conversations that an outsider would find a kind of a wall. Sometimes you find people just throwing jargon around, mixing and matching keywords and phrases. It becomes a complex game. This has limitations. It also serves a false “ground,” comforting and shoring up insecurity when insecurity and discomfort are important things to explore.
“Although there may be nothing wrong with beliefs and concepts in themselves, if they constitute the only way we know of being, they become a trap.”
The form/emptiness teaching in Buddhism, which happens in infinite ways, or at least a lot of ways, is one solution to this. I’m sure this is not limited to Buddhism.
Rinpoche writes about the “protectionistic” tendency of beliefs. This is very interesting, good stuff, in my opinion. Beliefs and concepts are both a kind of protective armor, in their workings, and they self-protect. As we deconstruct or examine them, there is resistance, anxiety, confusion. Sometimes the bodily component of this “agida” or confusion can be felt. Sometimes it feels like fire, or even like poison.
“How can we know that there is a different way to know?”
I think I will leave it there. The answer? Being churned by karma, and the heart. There are echoes, from the heart, we’re always being processed by karma, which somehow leaves room for waking up.
Quotes used with permission from Dharma Publishing. Books available from Dharma Publishing.