“- we may think we control our behavior, and are individuals, but a lot of this may connect to our instincts and evolutionary past, we may be more instinctive and animal than we’d like to admit, and being a little conscious of this fact does not exactly change it, we’re still managed by instinct (so then what? should one try to overcome instinct? is it hopeless? should you just go with it? we have societal norms, laws, and systems of ethics, but how much of these are just masks for instinct? maybe the more advanced forms of norm and law overcome instinct, leading to what?)” Nonverbal Notes

Studying nonverbal behavior, body language, facial expressions, more, our similarity to not only primates, but many animals becomes clear. The smile can be either a “play face” or a sign of aggression. Often people smile at each other to signal they want to play, in some form, or as a way to ward others off. It could be a form of “appeasement”- the play face was said to be a form of appeasement sometimes for some monkeys.

I think when people are compared to animals, there’s automatically the issue of  being condescending to humanity itself, being reductive about what animals are, or both. I don’t have a real addition to that problem, but it’s worth keeping in mind. I don’t think that people are exactly head and shoulders above animals, or that animals are equals of people, just some other form of life. The latter seems like a sort of extreme view to me, attractive in its simplicity and logic, but not entirely true, and basically a little dishonest (because people who might claim that humans and animals are equal wouldn’t really behave that way, wouldn’t sacrifice themselves for a squirrel with the same readiness they’d do so for a family member, wouldn’t give the same consideration to killing a pig they’d give to killing humans).

This is simplistic, but in terms of knowledge, is part of the picture balancing ideas and instincts? At the very least, I think it’s safe to say that it’s good to work with deep-seated instincts and desires, going back to the “animal level,” whatever this may mean to a person. With this kind of approach, it’s not about mastering instinct or dominating the animal part.

Discipline definitely comes into play, but then discpline in a Buddhist framework is very slippery and tricky, and not about just exerting willpower. My understanding is that it’s supposed to be somewhat pleasant and enjoyable. Too much gritting of teeth suggest there’s a problem with the discipline of practice. Ringu Tulku said in one clip I saw on YouTube that he thinks everything (and he was talking mostly about practice) should be done with a sense of lightness and ease. But then being able to practice a lot with that in mind becomes a real challenge.

““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. ” Intro to TSK


So here’s to thawing out reality!

Speaking very generally, when Tarthang Rinpoche talks about knowledge, it’s not just wisdom, and it’s not just conventional learning and thinking, it’s a marriage of both. Thawing out reality can involve this marriage of wisdom in more intoxicating forms (not smoking weed, but practice and experiences that are intoxicating out of ego), and thinking. One thing that drives me crazy about Asian pop culture is that people love to say “Don’t think too much.” You hear this from young people in Thailand, in some Asian pop music too. What would that mean? How could you think too much?


About jakekarlins

Aspiring writer and artist, dharma practitioner, yogi.

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