“This transcendence is not a ‘going elsewhere’, but a true thawing of all things and events so that they yield up their transcendent dimension.” Tarthang Tulku, “Time, Space, and Knowledge”
Following on previous discussions of “transcendence,” this quote shows that the kind of movement we’re dealing with is not going up, but going into, or through. There is, according to this view, a “transcendent dimension” to things which can be “thawed out.”
What if this talk of transcendence and hidden dimensions to reality seems unrealistic, irrelevant, or a little crazy? One response is that there is suffering. If there is a way out of the pervasive suffering of being a person, experiencing things shifting all the time, experiencing good things going bad, experiencing your own unease and self-consciousness, if there is a way out of all that without accessing this hidden dimension, then fantastic. Go for it. But my impression, my intuitive drive is in the direction of that side of reality. I don’t think therapy alone or trying to have a normal life, if this transcendence is shut out, will do it.
So that’s the suffering angle on the matter. This is in response to the possible objection that transcending the conventional is silly or obscure or unrealistic. Another take on it is that of “ordinary magic”- that conventional reality, when looked at directly, is really magical. It’s not that you get some sort of credential by saying “wow, that sunset is so beautiful, that tree is really special,” or by acting amazed, but that if you start to turn your mind to ordinary reality, some interesting discoveries are there to be made. Of course, that’s a matter of personal effort and looking. You can read things like a poem. That might be a legitmate way of describing it; when I read things with some depth, I pay attention to odd blips that catch my eye. Why did the author say that? Then I try to go back and piece it together. Those blips are reminders.
Another approach might be a sort of reminder in itself: just that you might know something, you might have a hint of it already in your mind. At some point, you’ve probably experienced something odd or surprising that was not your imagination.
Enough of that. Back to the commentary on the book.
“Knowledge makes no mistakes. It is clear, free of confusions, and misunderstandings. And it is available to everyone.”
If I’m correct, this refers to Great Knowledge. Every time Great Knowledge is talked about, it means we’re also talking about knowingness (knowledge waking up and becoming dynamic), and lower knowledge. It’s a little like saying we’re talking about movement- movement happens in ice, water, and steam.
“At the same time, Knowledge is beyond qualities…”
So even if I can talk about higher knowledge, it is essentially unspeakable and beyond any kind of concept (even if it can be said to go throughout lower and other kinds of knowledge).
Interestingly, Rinpoche then writes about what Great Knowledge is, and does. So it does not have qualities, but it can be talked about as if it does. Maybe this is not exactly it. I don’t want to be overly glib or disrespectful about this point. This is one where my mind can’t get it. I feel something, but am unable to express it coherently.
Perhaps it’s fair to say that, although there is the first/second/third level to all elements, time, space, and knowledge, you can also apply these ideas in a less structured way. If that’s fair, then talking about the no-quality aspect of knowledge, and then its apparent actions or qualities, is a sort of second level way of touching on the third level. It’s a conceptual way of driving the mind into the nonconceptual.
“Also, the ordinary knowing situation itself is not a finite point or region that walls us in.”
In both Buddhism, and TSK, things are perfect as they are. This is not to throw ethics and compassion out the window, but things are good as they are. Let’s put the ethical problem possible in that aside for a second. In terms of knowledge, I think this is saying that any situation of knowing, which is any experience of anything, is perfect. This perfection can be expanded, opened up, thawed, even more. How this is done is a matter of practice, I think (whatever you want that to mean).
This perfection is accessible in various ways. It also communicates, I think. This is known as messages. It is not metaphorical in the way metaphors appear in a book or poem. It’s not like a storm starting and knowing that trouble is on its way. In my experience, symbolism doesn’t have this human touch to it. It’s not that interpretable, or not in that way.
It’s also not entirely peaceful. The perfection of a situation is not that things are lovely. There’s an element of correction or parody, as well. That’s like the joke about buying a computer and then seeing it go on sale the next day.
I hope I’m not professing some sort of knowledge beyond what I really know or can relate, and I hope I’m not telling anything I’m not supposed to. I think New Age charlatans (unlike myself) talk about this sort of thing, but they have various problems, spiritual materialism probably being the main one (along with a lack of practice, and a lack of connection to a lineage). But enough vague trash talk about the New Age.
Like Beck says, it’s old enough to drink. Well, I’ve written more than enough, as usual. It’s time to try to write some fiction, and some nonfiction for my job. “Oh, look at the day outside. Nice sunshine…” Rev. Dogood, “Art Offical Intelligence 2”
Quotes used with permission from Dharma Publishing. Books available from Dharma Publishing.