“We have remained unconcerned about the problems caused by ‘lower knowledge’ because we are actually afraid to question them.” Tarthang Tulku, “Time, Space, and Knowledge”
By the by, as this project nears its end, I will be writing a new series of posts based on Time/Space/Knowledge vision. The focus of this next project will be twofold:
1. An exploration of the first/second/third level structure in TSK theory
2. An exploration of the vocabulary of TSK
Of course, Buddhist teachings and practice will be brought in as well. So that’s on the way, assuming I’m still around in two weeks or so. Overall, I think this will be a more coherent way to introduce yourself to TSK.
The quote I’m starting with is an approach I’m always fond of. A similar approach is looking at “ignorance” as it’s taught in Buddhism. When Buddhists talk about overcoming or transmuting ignorance, it’s not the kind of ignorance Westerners normally think of (for instance, my ignorance of plumbing). It’s intentional subtle ignorance. I like to forget to pay my credit card bill. I have some feeling in the back of my mind that I have to do that, I have to pay my bill, soon, but somehow I keep forgetting. That’s ignorance.
It’s a similar idea to being afraid to question certain things. Some ideas are basic, comforting, or both. Some kinds of questioning are comforting and habitual, and some are less so. This is interesting. Sometimes the environment of the questioning makes the difference- some else asking the thing you’ve been thinking about, or it happening in a new context. This is one way that talk therapy works I guess (having done only a little, about a month in college).
“We might end up with ‘knowings’ that end up quite beyond the scope of the self’s territory.”
So, in terms of these questions, a couple things show up here:
1. Unconventional kinds of knowledge, or wisdom, is involved in this questioning and answering. I think this means that what we’re talking about can’t be 100% rational, at least in the normal sense of the term. The heart, intuition, various subtleties come into play.
2. Beyond the scope- there’s, if not hope, inspiration there- it’s possible to go way beyond common sense limitations and boundaries in terms of how we know and live. The earthiness of common sense is great, but needs to balance with the heavenliness of space, the divine, that.
3. The self’s territory- There is a self (of sorts). It functions in various ways. It has territory (or plays myriad games involving territory). This process of finding wisdom and weaving it into one’s life does involve the self, and is painful. The self is hard to distinguish. It loves the idea of enlightenment as having a huge territory, like a mansion with guards and gates, or its own private island. That is, I’ve been told, not how it works. This is painful.
But it is worth it (I’m betting on it). After the self’s activities, Rinpoche writes about working on knowledge, and this “stirring up” Great Knowledge. This is really interesting. It’s as if you start to awaken something, like a big monster, just by starting to go after knowledge (and even lower knowledge, so maybe even simple small questions, like how a machine works, or how to cook something, which can be as simple or complex as you like, actually).
I tend to go off the deep end a little with this my thoughts, including those on dharma. That is my style (you can call it “karma”). But the idea of knowledge stirring things up, and this happening like a beast being woken up has caught my attention. Isn’t it the case that thinking can lead you to dangerous and frightening places? Thoughts can be powerful, just in light of the fact that you have to live with them, so this stirring up is a little threatening. The fear of going insane is something I’ve had in my mind since I was a little kid. Like so many things, though, I have a feeling I’m not alone in that. Maybe that is one thing that puts people off of the spiritual path, the feeling that madness is a real possibility, and that mishandling one’s spiritual travels can lead there.
That’s why basic practice is necessary (one reason at least). Things do get intense and dicey in my experience. So it’s good to sit for a little every day and let your thoughts settle (or however one might describe mindfulness meditation).
So Great Knowledge is prowling around. It can be woken up, and then it starts to prowl and gambol and so forth.
“It supports a very solid and intensely felt confrontation…”
Quotes used with permission from Dharma Publishing. Books available from Dharma Publishing.