“In order to perceive more directly, we can examine the familiar process of experiencing clarity and understanding, which inevitably gives way to confusion or ‘not knowing’.” Tarthang Tulku, “Time, Space, and Knowledge”
This is a surprising and intriguing idea. Honestly, I have not really tried it out. It suggests a kind of practice in itself. I think maybe it’s safe to leave it at that: this quote suggests a kind of practice of observing one’s own mind, in terms of clarity and confusion. It may be worth trying out.
At this point in time, I’m more the kind of person who is intrigued by learning about philosophy or meditation techniques than by going to a movie or getting a new TV. Am I too serious? I don’t know. I’m inspired by stories about practitioners from the past who were really zealous about meditating and studying (and are said to have accomplished great things as a result).
But then again, the world they lived in was somewhat different than mine. I live in a modern, largely “westernized” realm. Work, family, politics, and so on, are a big thing. But then again, this has been true for ages. And people have practiced wisdom in monasteries as well as in their homes and the marketplace. So I don’t know.
Sometimes I think that I’m fooling myself as re:my need for “fun”- somehow subconsciously, I get downtrodden, and I do need the pick me up of a movie, restaurant, etc. (and I’m just denying that feeling, even though it’s there). But then again, maybe I’m just imagining that. What is fun, anyway? And why do I so often feel like I’ve given away my valuable time to something deadening, horrific, when I’ve spent hours trying to have fun?
But then the illusion of “accomplishment” is its own problem. I can sit at home and write or meditate, and soon enough that will all go away. Any writing anyone sees will be forgotten eventually, and I’ll die soon enough. I guess meditation prepares you for that. That’s part of the idea. But even meditation seems like a game, just like any other activity.
There’s a point. I think part of the “fun” problem is the game-playing instinct that is there in everything (at least for me). Saying that it’s all some kind of game for meaning’s sake, or for the aggrandizement of ego has some truth to it, but then you’re still stuck playing the game. And, at the same time, I don’t think that it’s all that bad (there has to be some redeeming value to even silly timewasting, or some kernel of truth).
Well, I don’t think I’ve gotten anywhere with that line of thought, yet, so I’ll veer back into the commentary.
In connection with the idea of finding a quality of knowledge present in both clarity and confusion, Rinpoche writes: “These are bold claims, and such a vision may seem very inaccessible. But the way to understand it is not to force some special experience, but simply to relate to what Time and Space continually display.”
So, in one sense, mindfulness, or maybe mindfulness-awareness. Let’s say both. That’s a safe bet.
“Everything can be used and enjoyed without reinforcing old biases.”
This quote comes after a brief but pithy description of Great Knowledge, which is referred to as “unlearned learnedness.” I’m not sure I can do much to shed light on what this means, in theory or in practice, but the above quote does catch my eye. It seems to say that when you start get in touch with Great Knowledge, life’s display can be “used and enjoyed” in a way that doesn’t support habitual patterns, addiction, and grasping.
This is something to think about. How does one become aware of this play of Time and Space, use it, enjoy it, but not have it filter back through the usual stories and assumptions, not have it rebuild the usual walls and corridors and halls of mirrors? Well, the book seems to suggest a few things.
I think there is the idea of the perfection of knowledge, that things are perfect. In both confusion and clarity there is something knowing or clear. Somehow this kind of awareness, which is penetrating (going through positive and negative states of mind), and nondual, can be utilized for enjoyment and doing things in the world.
This goes back to the idea of fun. What’s the difference between fun and enjoyment? The latter is used sometimes in Buddhism. Is there something daring, honest, surprising about fun that is not there with “enjoyment”? Maybe it’s more humble.
Of course, talking about “fun” that way is pretty weird, and contrary to the notion of fun itself. Anyway, back to the book. I’m nearing the end of this part of the blog, so I have to skim through a bit to make this writing fit the form (twenty seven posts per section).
“Such mastery and brilliance never fail because everything transmits them.”
So there seems to be some aspect of reality that is supportive (maybe especially to certain knowledge cultivating endeavors). Like the idea that life is a good teacher, or that reality is always trying to communicate with us, Rinpoche says that we can dance with life in a way that is free, and the life itself actually “transmits” this naturally, all the time.
I recently read a quote from Trungpa Rinpoche suggesting that “theism” is not so much belief in a god, but a vague sense that something out there is taking care of things. This, he said, keeps you from actually seeing how things work, and from actually doing things “your own way.” This is a paraphrase. I found this really interesting and good.
So, if the world is always transmitting brilliantly, there needs to be practice and precision as well, to see how this works. It’s easy enough to say that the universe is talking to us, in some way, but it is too easy if you’re not learning about how that works (and about how that relates to addictions of various kinds- the living universe idea is wonderful, but everything always tends to get filtered back into habitual patterns and ego).
This post has gotten longer than I’d planned, so I’ll cut it short soon.
The “spontaneous seeing” and living with the universe always “transmitting” and making presentations is referred to as the “Body of Knowledge.” The idea of the bodies is something I have to explore next time.
So why don’t I end there? That seems good. But again, where does fun fit in? And how does you stop from devaluing human life, making life frivolous (when it’s short, no joke)? Where does the infamous “sense of humor” fit in?
Quotes used with permission from Dharma Publishing. Books available from Dharma Publishing.