Monthly Archives: March 2012

Sunday meditation and empowerment

A quick memo:


Sunday meditation tomorrow from 7-8 am (I know it’s early, but it’s worth it; I’ll make sure the room is nice and toasty and comfortable.)

After that (right after) I’m driving to Arlington to the Drikung Kagyu center for an empowerment with Lama Konchok Sonam. He’s a remarkable teacher although not well known. The empowerment is $60. (That would go to the Drikung Center, not me, of course, you’d pay there.) If you want to go, let me know and I’ll gladly give you a ride.

Four reminders, new

In my mini-series about the four reminders…

1. Don’t waste your life.

This doesn’t mean go crazy trying to do projects. If you have to, for work, I guess it might be good not to take them too seriously.

2. Death is a constant possibility.

I think one trick here is that it’s easy to live on the surface of things. I know from experience that you can remind yourself intellectually about death and change a lot, and not have your experience change. Then there’s no point. Sometimes, I think moments of real panic, fear, surprise are very useful. They allow you to go beneath the surface of intellectual meandering.

3. There’s cause and effect, suffering and relief.

Certain things cause certain effects, specifically suffering, and the relief of suffering. One point there is that it’s not supposed to be a guilt festival in regards to suffering. Suffering may be the result of negative karma, or negative actions. That doesn’t have to get heavy handed or become some sort of prison sentence. A practical approach seems useful a lot of the time.

4. We’re working on the “root cause of samsaric existence.”

Said root cause sounds a little esoteric or Eastern maybe. It just means you can:

-get lots of relative benefits from practice and study (relaxation, stress relief, focus, health benefits)

– these are not the point (the point is realizing the end of suffering entirely)

So, again: don’t waste your life. Death is always around the corner. Karma is not Zeus blasting you with thunderbolts. The whole deal is about ending suffering completely. Time to fret about making lunch.



Svenska: Dramatiska teatern i Stockholm, mask ...

Svenska: Dramatiska teatern i Stockholm, mask av Carl Milles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From “mixed curry”… on time…

Animated symbol of buddism Dzogchen; White A.

Animated symbol of buddism Dzogchen; White A. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, a nonexistent job interview, nonexistent blood donation (with free food and coupons that seem real enough), illusory lottery ticket and Taekwondo dojo, a help wanted sign that when I enquire, the manager has disappeared, nonbody in the house I come home to, my wife can’t do the babysitting tonight because she’s working, soon it’s time to go and practice


a whole lot of nothing- in Buddhism we’re told by the “mahayanists” that emptiness is not depression or terror- to go to this extreme in the face of losing ground or losing or losing it or it — would be “nihilism” and that would not be cute like in that movie, but a cause for confusion and further suffering. so take it easy. it’s nothing. something like that, as my wife says.


anyway, an old recycle so I can get off the darn computer and go practice. practice.







“Continuing with Time, we run into some discussion of assumptions and frameworks. Conventionally, we perceive things as being inseparable from time… We perceive things as inseparable from time, and this in itself is a function of ordinary time. Somehow, the perception of things as moving in and flowing through time is regulated by our understanding of linear time. I take this to mean, among other things, that when things happen in a way that does not fit with our concept of time, we filter them out, because time is such a basic part of the perceptual apparatus.

Tarthang Tulku calls normal time here a “subtle but powerful time.” Our perception of things being ordered about by time is subtle, and it is powerful. I would agree with this, and it is one of those things that is easy to miss. Perception of time happens constantly, it seems, and is so basic as to seem not worth even examining. Maybe it is not. Maybe this experiment is not going to bear fruit. But I always find those sorts of things interesting, the missed assumptions.

Next, Tarthang Tulku refers to time as a focal setting on space, specifically that our normal version of time is a kind of focal setting on Great Space.” Intro to TSK

I always feel less comfortable discussing time than space. Space is easy. It’s all space. Space is everywhere. You can talk about labels and concepts, and you can use wordplay. Space is easy, at least to sound like you understand it. Time gets more tricky.


Getting past the normal understanding/grasping of time.

The discomfort of time

Vague/glib equations of time with other things

First, time is so basic to our common understanding of life. No one really questions it. It does seem to work. If it is ever examined, it’s in light of “time flies when…”, which just means that desire and time perception are linked. If there’s this anxiety about questioning and examining time (admittedly partly out of a fear of science and math where I am in over my head) that in itself could mean it’s worth continuing with said investigation.

Time and anxiety go hand in hand. Time is a measurement and ordering device, as it’s perceived (lower time in TSK language I think) and this, then, starts to explain a bit; just as ego involves all sorts of defenses and solidifying strategies, so does time. Time vs. ego?

This is a personal quirk, but probably not completely personal: I’m always thinking about time, and using to figure out what to do and not do. I’m constantly rassling my world in terms of time, and this is uncomfortable (partly just because I know it’s unneeded, a construction).

Finally, it can be easy (for me) to say, “time is perception,” or “time is ego.” Without being able to flesh this out clearly and well, this kind of logic is dangerous, and has little value.

   But then, time is, we’re told, a focal setting on space. So time, is, in a way, space.

We have this on good authority. So what does that mean, then?

The energy and movement and forming and recycling of life is an interaction with space.


from “Transcending Madness,” Trungpa Rinpoche

TR: In terms of ego, it seems that space and time are very solid. In terms of awake experience, the time concept is very loose. In other words, in terms of ego, there’s only one center and radiation from it; in terms of beyond ego, center is everywhere and radiation is everywhere. It’s not one center, but it is all-pervading.

Student: Is it a particular trick of ego to see things in terms of time?

TR: In the ordinary sense of ego, there’s very little understanding of time. Ego’s understanding of time is purely based on desire, what you would like to see, what you would like to develop.

“Everywhere you look, his transparent body is there…” Sadhana of Mahamudra, Trungpa Rinpoche

I’m writing this as I listen to a talk given by Reggie Ray, one of the Vidyadhara’s foremost students. I feel simultaneously that these teachings, the wisdom teachings of Trungpa Rinpoche, are expanding incredibly vastly throughout the world, and that they’re really unknown, nobody outside of the relatively secret world of Tibetan Buddhism has looked at them- even within Tibetan Buddhism, his work is not well known, not as much as it could be.

This very short post has only really one of my own ideas or spins in it- that there is an “awake” experience of time and space. Specifically, since I’m writing mostly about time in this section, there is an awake experience of time. That is not normally what I experience, or most people experience. But it is there. That’s the idea.


“When fully appreciated, Great Time is seen to be a kind of perfectly liquid, lubricious dimension- it is quintessentially ‘slippery’. For this reason- although there seem to be movement and separate places to move to on the first level, and still more open, fluid possibilities on the second level- on the third level there is no ‘going’ and no separate places… So, from a third level point of view, an eternity of ‘straying’ still leaves us very much ‘at home’, intimately united.” TSK

If the perfection of reality were strayable, if we could leave it, it would not be perfect. It is my understanding that seeing this, in a small way, and working on our real world flaws and addictions and ways of harming, creates a kind of feedback loop— Everything is perfect beyond understanding, and yet I’m still so messed up, and somehow I can work towards that perfection that can’t be approached… Somehow that cognitive dissonance works for our benefit, maybe creating what is called the intoxication of mind. In my experience this is utterly different from the highs of drugs, the highs of ego, and is also very different from a ‘quiet mind.’” Intro to TSK

 First level- the conventional, the normal

Second level- the awakening of magical world, the glimpses, stepping out of the cocoon

Third level- fruition, waking up, realizing the journey need not have been made at all

A lot of people don’t even go past the first level, really, because their lives are pretty comfortable. On the other hand, if your life is hellish, or completely full of addiction, pain, or illness, you might not get past the first level because you’ve given up. It’s not even worth trying.

In the Buddhist tradition, we say you need the right balance of suffering and happiness to even take up the path. I think that applies to both converts, and people born into the Buddhist tradition. It’s obviously possible to be brought up in a tradition and just follow some rituals and customs, claim some beliefs, but never really enter the path.

The second level I think happens if you get past the first level. Realizing that suffering exists and that living in the rat race is not going to cut it tends to lead to other realizations- and often not a total breakthrough, but that you’ve already been experiencing a lot of magic and “miracles” and have just been ignoring them or forgetting them or blocking them out- experiences of atmosphere, energy, feelings a little beyond the ordinary, and so forth. Go into a New Age bookstore, and you might think that you need to buy some crystals or an expensive DVD, or the right incense to get in touch with these experiences, but in fact they’ve been there all the time. (That’s been my experience to an extent, and is something I have faith in.)

Then there’s the third level, when you’ve gone far enough into the sacred world, and have gone through “some changes,” as one acquaintance said I would, in a sort of ominous way; you come out on the other side, transformed, but at the same time, “completely ordinary.” They say when you get to that point, you realize that things are as they should be, and the whole path was not even such a big deal (in spite of all of the transformations, experiences, and small to large breakthroughs).

So that’s one take on the three levels. This triad exists in other ways in Buddhism, although I am not knowledgeable enough at this point to expound on that in a coherent way, really. The trio does seem significant, existing not just in Buddhism, but in many traditions. I won’t get too far out there, though. I won’t claim to be any expert on world religions- just bumbling through some TSK and Tibetan Buddhism is enough for me.

Good teachings do various things. I think the idea of feedback loop is wonderful- logic is neither the best way, nor a mistake. Logic can be used, though, to make the mind do some really great stuff. It can play tricks (enlightened tricks) on the mind (and body). Waking up is tricky and twisty, in my experience. Skillful means often involve trickery, and seem to expand over time. A teacher says something, and it resonates, for years and years, fermenting, creating a good brew to intoxicate conceptual mind. For better or worse, conceptual mind is the path, and conceptual mind is too clever to be handled by mere logic.


“Time is viewed differently in different cultures. In some places, people live by the clock, by the calendar. In America, if someone says they will be at an appointment at 7 am, they should be there at 7am (or earlier). Of course, this is true in general. It’s not that simple.

In other places, people don’t care so much about clock time. Someone could say they would meet you at 7, and they might be there much later. In America, this kind of lateness is often considered rude. In some places, it’s just the way people live. In some European countries, I believe, time is considered very important. In others, not so much.

Here’s a good perspective to start with.

There was a paper written on time and culture by Kosiu, Troncy, and Golhauser. It was called “Time Perception in France, Germany, and Poland.” It is about time in different places.

One thing they look at is “time orientation.” They define people as either past-oriented, present-oriented, or future-oriented. If you’re past-oriented, you think a lot about the past. It’s really important to you. Think for a moment about yourself. Which one are you? Do you think most about the past, present, or future? Which one is most important to you?

They represented these ideas with circle diagrams in the paper. Look at the board.

Draw one of these diagrams for yourself. If the past is very important to you, make it a big circle. Make the size of the circles based on how important each of these areas is.

Think about where you live. Draw three more circles for your culture. If you are from Thailand, think about Thailand. If you’re from China, think about China.

Notably, these folks also studied how this changes over time. For instance, young people may be more future-oriented. However, they can become past-oriented as they get older. Old people may like to think about past events, past successes, failures. Of course, most people don’t want to think about death (and as you get old, death seems to get closer).

Ok, back to the book.

They talk about the body again.

This is something people are thinking about a lot these days! (Actually, since the 1960’s in West, I think, but these days too!) Remember, we talked about health and body responses and facial expressions.” Nonverbal Notes

That was a pretty long excerpt. I had to put in the last few lines, since the bodily angle of this field interests me a lot, and is something I actually managed to teach reasonably well in that class.

I think the idea of time is handled in a pretty clear and simple way, too. It’s a good starting point, maybe. You could think about “time orientation,” both in terms of yourself personally, and “your culture.”

Then there’s separating them out, if this is possible.

How is one individual’s perception of time, and usage of time, different from the culture they are in? What culture is “someone in”?

“‘All the ‘timed’ connections within situations are pervaded with space. Every part of our interlocking world may be discovered to be full of gaps or discontinuities- which allow us to depart from ordinary procedures so that we may enjoy a bit of nonstandard control.”

I’ll try to wrap up. In the above quote, there is the dance of masculine and feminine, time and space. There couldn’t be time without space, because time moves, and for that movement to happen you need space. There’s one kind of “interlocking.”  It seems like as we move up through the levels, more space is being introduced, up to the point in third level time at which time becomes very “spacey.” There are two other interesting points: gap, and control. First, gap is a teaching familiar to most people who’ve studied Trungpa Rinpoche. This relates to the bardo. Control is something I don’t hear about a lot in the teachings I study. It is definitely a theme in second level time: progressing in certain ways, being able to do things differently based on experience and practice.” Intro to TSK

This quote follows a little section on timing. Timing is, I think, for hardheaded folks, who wouldn’t normally time to be anything special or magical, something that could open out into more “transitional” views.


Looks like somehow I posted this one on the wrong blog. Here’s an old one, reposted to the Gaeng Pad series.

““Although we have learned to regard some kinds of knowledge as immutable, even the most fundamental aspects of the knowable are bound to a specific time and place. For example, cosmologists agree that during the first few moments of the universe, time and space themselves may have ‘acted’ in unimaginable ways… On the far smaller scale of a human lifetime, the styles of thought and action we follow and the customs we take for granted change from year to year and decade to decade.”

Tarthang Tulku, The Range of the Knowable, Love of Knowledge

This quote makes me think about how realization and freedom have to happen in the midst of culture, and what a challenge this is. What we know, what we’ve been programmed to react to, and what we’re programming ourselves to do, are all bound up with culture, and any images of enlightenment, peace, happiness, kindness, that we have are all also bound to culture.” Intro to TSK

Trungpa Rinpoche, in Transcending Madness, responded to a student’s question by saying that meditation the “technique of infiltration.” He stated that he was attempting to “infiltrate American karma.”

How he did this, and is still doing it is an interesting point.

However, this idea of infiltration is really fascinating to me. The way that yoga classes have spread throughout the US, and are infusing US culture with both Hindu spirituality, and some more New Age offshoots, is really inspiring and exciting to me. Who would have thought 20 years ago that a Hindu/tantric body practice would be incredibly popular in the states, influencing the entire culture? In a way, the subtlety of it is what works. People just take yoga, they relax, they destress, and they see that it can work. If the deeper practices and concepts never appeal, fine. If the depth of it does take root after someone has studied yoga for ten years, so much the better. I think there’s a compatibility of Hindu theism with Christianity that has a lot of interesting possibilities too.

Knowledge can seem immutable, and it can seem totally bound to time and space, or to specific circumstances.

Being able to be yourself enough to not be bound by your culture, your time and place, is a good goal, I think. It seems almost impossible to be totally beyond your time and place. I think if it is, then that would be enlightenment, or being completely present. That’s a good long term goal, I think, but a short term goal would be being more awake. I think part of this means being involved in culture, and having some (small) effect on one’s culture. How you do that, though, is tricky.


 Door at “Tail of the Tiger,” Vermont, a door by which the dharma began streaming into the West

“Many think that women are better are reading nonverbal cues than men. They also seem to remember appearance and cues better than men. Women are also better at reading facial cues than men (which means men may be equal to women, or better, at reading some cues). On a side note, we live in an age of telephones and computers and the internet. It’s possible that nonverbal communication is becoming less important, or less relevant. It is changing; that you can’t argue. If you communicate by email, nonverbal communication will be different than if you talk “face-to-face.”” Nonverbal Notes

(detail of Vajrayogini thangka by Jack Niland)

The big thing, really the only thing, I got from studying nonverbal communication, is that it’s about perception and communication on the level of what you could call intuition. I guess you could say it’s about reading and moving energy. When I said in one class that the rise of emails and phone messaging meant nonverbal communication (ie facial expressions, body language) would become less important in the future, less necessary, no one really seemed to get it. No one took the bait.

Said bait was that, even with emails, you get nonverbal impressions. I think it’s one of those nice real life examples lots of people get- which is frustrating in a way, and perfect in another. People will probably admit that you can tell the feeling from many emails based on …? It’s not the font size, or the color of the font. You can just feel it, so much of the time.

So nonverbal communication is that movement of feeling, energy, impression that is always happening, and the rise of electronics will have to change how this manifests, but it won’t destroy it; on the contrary, it seems like it might make it more obvious (which is good for people like me, so often I miss the obvious, the obviously nonverbal).

This is time. In TSK vision, time refers not only to the passing of experiences, but their flavors and styles, their energies.

Look at our beautiful future!

So now my communication class is in the past, and I’m left with some fuzzy and intense memories, and my students the same (and some grades).

But the beginning of the post touched on men/women differences in thinking and communicating. That’s a complex topic, and not one I understand well. Here’s one connection, though. Rereading Trungpa Rinpoche’s writing/talks on the feminine principle, in some schools, the feminine is considered space, and the masculine earth, forms, things. My initial understanding of the feminine principle in deities, in religion, was of the feminine as earth, nature, living things. Many Tibetan yogis and scholars considered the feminine to be space, emptiness, the formless (and more solid things to be masculine, thus the earth). It’s common these days to talk about the growth of dharma, particularly Hindu and Buddhist, in the West, as a sort of rebalancing, of the feminine wisdom returning after masculine creativity and impulses had ruined or at least unbalanced things, a sort of back to Mother Earth kind of thing.

While I think that has some insight to it, this idea shifts if you look at feminine energy/wisdom as being about space, and masculine energy/wisdom as being about form. In this view, the feminine is emphasized much more, but it’s also not oversimplified or sentimentalized into some kind of hippie earth-mother thing. This may be complicated by the existence of a male bias in Tibetan Buddhism. I don’t think so personally, especially the direction things are taking in American Buddhism these days, but that’s just my opinion on the matter.

The balancing of masculine and feminine, and integration of those, is one very rough roadmap of spiritual learning. I think that’s a decent lens to look at these ideas through:

men and women both work with that integration,

which involves “nonverbal communication”

and time (masculine) and space (feminine).

It’s interesting, too, that VCTR gave innumerable teachings on space. At the same time, he transmitted the Shambhala teachings, and set up a whole framework for passing on the Shambhala teachings. Yes, in Shambhala we hear about space. At the same time, it’s more masculine in many regards. That’s my opinion. Why is it masculine?

warrior tradition

works in the natural world

works often in terms of things, perceptions

works in terms of “container” and creating culture

Some jumbled thoughts. Enough for now.


““Great Time is the self. But the self cannot fathom Time.”
Tarthang Tulku, Time, Space, and Knowledge

I’m moving ahead with third level time, which is connected to ‘Great Time’. As I think I’ve said before, there is a ‘Great’ associated with the third level of each element: Great Time, Great Space, and Great Knowledge. There’s also a ‘body’ referred to (the Body of Time, etc.). What those mean exactly, and what the distinction is between the Greats and the Bodies I’m not sure yet.

I picked this quote to begin with partly because I’m talking about third level time, and partly because it caught my eye as I was doing some reading. Seeing Time as the self: this is a surprising approach for me. This is complicated by the fact that it is not just time, but Great Time that is the self, which is described in TSK and in the Buddhadharma as limited, limiting.

The limiting or samsaric side of things is brought in with the second part of the quote: the self can’t fathom time.

Jumping back a step, though, it’s significant that according the Rinpoche:
1. The self is Time.
2. Time includes lower, middle and higher levels.
3. The self can’t understand what it’s made out of; it can’t comprehend its own substance, which is transcendental.

Maybe transcendental isn’t the right word. But the self can’t understand its own makeup as Time. I can also say the self can’t understand itself as luminosity, or as the masculine principle of form.” Intro to TSK

That non-understanding is space, I think. It has to be. It could either be space as confusion (the self thinks it understands things generally, and itself specifically), or space as wisdom (the self is understood but not in dualistic terms, it’s perceived as jnana, primary wisdom, nondual wisdom).

Pretty good! Not sure if that works entirely, but it’s something to start with.

I had some other good thought earlier today, what was that? It was about stories and meaning. Here goes.

1. We make sense of life in terms of a latticework of stories and interpretations.

2. These cover over pure groundlessnes.

3. You can either go toward the extreme of form- life has meaning, and it’s in stories, concepts and words- or the extreme of emptiness- these words aren’t it obviously, and concept can’t capture direct experience, so it’s all meaningless.

4. Reality or wisdom is about not going for either extreme with stories. Life isn’t a story. It isn’t a meaningless chaotic mess that is covered by an illusion of stories. It’s not a combination of both. It’s not neither, either. It’s not outside of those possibilities (or inside of them).

“All I got now is today…” song playing on the internet radio station

So beyond being caught up in stories and thoughts, or being totally cynical about life, there’s some other kind of experience. Possibly that experience could be time. I’m not able to say. Time certainly figures in.

On another note, it’s almost my birthday. As I’ve been appreciating holidays and celebration more and more recently, I plan to celebrate my birthday even more this year. I think it may help to invoke TSK in terms of holidays.

For a good holiday, space changes, and time stretches out differently. Of course, there’s also knowledge, the wisdom information being constantly transmitted by the outer space radio station of the lineage.


“I think intimacy in TSK theory has a number of meanings. On first and second levels, I think it manifests as openness, appreciation, and mindfulness. This is not an exhaustive list. On the third level, this intimacy is different. It is the very interaction of feminine and masculine elements in reality.

“”The unrestrained fulfillment of the interplay of Great Space and Time is an intimacy that is complete and uncontrived… It is the shattering- and yet natural- surfacing of our real Being.” (italics not added)

Space and time, emptiness and form, light and perfection, interact in daily life. Everything can be analyzed in terms of those sides. The description of the intimacy of these things emphasizes depth and intensity of interaction.” Intro to TSK

Intimacy is a buzzword of sorts in some circles.

Since New Age types is one of those circles, it’s a word I’m not comfortable with. Maybe I’m not comfortable with it, really, because intimacy is itself so intense and sensitive and close to the heart. Who knows?

Intimacy is a term that came up a lot in the Nonverbal Communication textbook I used, oddly enough. Why? I think it entered into a number of discussions of what communication means, and what some basic communication goals and parameters are. Just casually, since I’m not well versed in this part of the teachings, let me write a tiny bit about intimacy as it relates to basic life, and to TSK and the dharma.

I think intimacy involves a lot of factors. The following list of attributes will be buzzwords, in a sense, but good ones, at least. It involves genuineness, nondeception, penetration, and (I think) kindness. That’s at least for human intimacy (maybe animal intimacy as well, but if that exists or not I’m not sure, and not sure how it would differ).

Intimacy is genuine. You can’t be intimate with someone if you’re pandering, or being some version of yourself that is based on something fake. It’s nondeceptive, which is connected to being genuine. This is not easy, especially when there’s something to lose. It’s penetrating. This could be unpleasant or pleasant, I think, strong or gentle. It hits you somehow. It’s not surfacey. There has to be some time and place for politeness, I guess, but this is not as surfacey as politeness. Finally, there’s some kindness. Intimacy is not considered cruel or hurtful, usually.

Kindness is defined in a funny way in Buddhism, sometimes. Things that are eventually helpful, even though seeming harsh or unkind at one point in time could be considered kind (in the long run). At that point, kindness and compassion seem pretty similar, hard to distinguish.

I’m trying to think of a real life example of this, but am drawing a blank at this point. In a sense, it’s about not just “tough love,” but about how the big lessons change and evolve over time in unexpected ways. A seemingly kind act could lead to suffering later on. A seemingly cruel act could lead to great things later on.

“You have to decide if you’re a happy person or a sad person.”

A teacher told me that probably almost 20 years ago, and it still haunts me, often pleasantly. What does that mean?

But what about TSK- somehow this term is used a lot in TSK.

It seems to be about connection, and shows up, of course, in three levels.

This tripartite thing shows up also in Nyingma Buddhism, I’ve read.

In order to be lazy and move on to other internet activities, I’ll keep this part short. It’s a shattering and yet a natural surfacing. There are elements of shattering on the path, which is a matter of penetration I guess, and also a natural quality. They say that there are various ways to enter the path. Here’s the breakdown:

1. Quick and enjoyable

2. Slow and enjoyable

3. Quick and painful

4. Slow and painful (agonizing)

Mine has been number four, for the most part, with a little flash of one at the beginning.

This idea of meditation training as slow, and hard work might be appealing to Americans, but then again, maybe not. Who know? More and more, I think about how skillful means seems to involve tricking people- into somehow letting go, growing, not suffering.


Here ends the time section, pretty much (until I revise it, add some poetry, and repost the entire thing!).

(Dorje Trollo via Aro Encyclopedia)

And! I have only about ten minutes left at this internet cafe to write this! Somehow I hope time will comply with me, and let me write this decently.

The quote above talks about contextualizing, and space around definitions, I guess as reinforcing habitual patterns. So this is pretty straightforward I think. Defining, understanding, and contextualizing very easily leads to confirming and shoring up in ways that deny groundlessness. That’s a hopeless battle essentially, but it’s still one fought constantly throughout the world, and one with bad fallout.

But what I wanted to do, in lieu of wrapping up time, was to write about vocabulary and definitions. This is a nice way into the TSK vision. Just like VCTR, Tarthang Tulku uses language in a poetic and idiosyncratic way to illuminate.

Body- things behave together as an organization, in ways that seem magical, together

Transmit- the exchange of information, or maybe even space, which can happen in either positive or negative ways

Construct- an artificial idea (usually of time, space or knowledge)

Dynamic- the movement and flow of something

Arising- similar to dynamic, but emphasizing how something appears or comes into awareness

Ness- This is added unconventionally to many words, and eventually gets its own word, for quality itself, maybe for suchness, the “ness”

Logos, prerecorded, pressure….

No time to finish this… Oh well! Next time. Now for a nice picture.


Last time I ran short on time, so I want to add a little more.

The post was not amazing, but the main ideas were, I think: the vocabulary of TSK as a way to approach it, and contextualizing as a common way to maintain ground or confirm ego.

The latter sounds a little dicey now, but it’s pretty simple. Take any idea or concept, say, lunch.

Lunch is, as an idea, defined by my hopes for lunch, the available restaurants in my area (I’m not cooking today), my memories of lunch, expectations of what a lunch is (probably not pure ice cream), and so forth. This web of associations can tend to be a trap, fun to play in, but not lending itself to exploration or new things. There’s some momentum to it that can be negative. (“Hello, habit-energy,” is a contemplation, I think, Thich Nhat Hanh recommended).

Obviously, using language in surprising ways can be a way to intoxicate this labyrinth of concerns.

Some other vocab…

Projections- there is a play between projects (as verb and noun, and as noun, the implication is, I think, that ego sets up ground by creating things to do, with meaning)… this one is similar to transmission

Exhibition- Like projection and arising, like so many of them, actually, but emphasizing a theatrical or museum quality to experience (with both negative and positive implications)… also, “exhibit”

The “ness” ending, as well as using noun and verb forms extensively is worth noting. Rushing too much to go deeper than that. It’s worth noting.

Not-knowing- Ignorance and darkness. Like someone saying “I don’t know.” In contrast to the “don’t know mind” idea in Zen, of freshness, naivete, and so on.

Unity- this is one place TSK differs from Buddhism as I see it, an emphasis on the root quality, maybe, of unity. There’s not just nonduality, but oneness, in this vision. When Tarthang Tulku writes about this, and about light, TSK sounds more like Christianity.

Conducting- again, like transmission and arising, and exhibiting, but the angle is more about the assocations we have with conducting- electricity, a train on tracks, an orchestra/music.

I could, and should, write a lot more about TSK through the lens of vocabulary. Also, this can’t be done just on the level of individual words, but how Rinpoche uses them and plays with them. Verbs and nouns are interchanged a lot. Verbs are turned into nouns (knowingness) that feel like adjectives. Many words are used to describe the process or reality itself, just giving glimpses of different approaches, different areas (implying that awareness is really the aim, awareness of being, or presence, and language is mainly used to clue people in to that, using slightly different positioning).

TSK (Time/Space/Knowledge)


So why give any thought to TSK, the TSK style of presentation? The pragmatic point of view is prevalent and very useful, and in the background a lot of the time.

The argument for TSK is made most directly by appealing to the stress and constriction of normal functioning, the daily grind, etc. As Tarthang Tulku puts it, we tend to see things as a checklist or grid, and assume that as items are checked off we get closer to happiness. This is, he states, “shockingly limited way” of pursuing life. I think this is true. Not that the basic elements of family, job, community have to be done away with or are problematic necessarily, but that typical ways of viewing them can be problematic.

This is not very different from the Buddhist idea of the four noble truths, and the idea of renunciation. I see a lot of crossover between Buddhism and TSK, which makes sense, considering the creator of TSK is a Buddhist.

So maybe the daily grind argument works- the checklist view of happiness is obviously limited, and finding ways out of that is promising. But maybe this isn’t enough. TSK also helps enter the reader into other aspects of reality.

Such as? Such as perceiving that space and time have textures and flavors we sometimes ignore or cover up. We can become aware of this. Today when I went to do some shopping with my wife, I noticed that the atmosphere outside and the way people were behaving seemed disturbed, stressed, confused. I had felt this change in our apartment, but not as strongly. In the mall, it became much more palpable. People crossed paths, bumped, seemed distracted, couldn’t form lines to check out. The air seemed charged, the people flighty. Just noticing this is something, not credentials, but something, and from this point, I could make some decisions about how I acted. I wasn’t just entirely swept along in the atmosphere.

So there is atmosphere, and however you understand this, TSK can help explore this experience. It is complex, and worth exploring. This is, in brief, the other argument I see for TSK- as a way of exploring aspects of reality often forgotten or missed. The two arguments here, escaping the grid, and experiencing more fully, are also not mutually exclusive. They work together. The process of going off the grid, and of experiencing more fully go hand in hand, not in a simple or pleasant way, but as a process of growth.

So maybe that would be a natural and good place to end this post, but I can’t resist including some final random thoughts, so that I don’t forget them:

1. Different cultures and people seem to have different concepts of time, space and knowledge. I have noticed this especially with space recently. Individuals’ concepts of personal space, the space they move through, where they live, the way objects can be arranged in a space, tend to be different.

2. Convenience and speed are often seen as given expectations today, at least in my experience. Living where I do, in a place where things tend to move more slowly than in the US, where I grew up, I notice that even in “high speed” environments, such as a busy checkout line at a convenience store, people tend to move more slowly. Sometimes I think, “This culture is a slower one, with more time. The slow cashier is giving us the gift of more time.” By this I mean that even though things move more slowly here, I don’t find myself running out of time.


Dance Floor



Meditation practice is simple, and it’s a dance. The simplicity is in the technique: sit straight, find the breath, work with your thoughts. This simple technique is also sophisticated. It’s not purely simple, it also works on various levels at the same time. The dancelike quality of practice happens in that simple technique. You dance with the rhythm of the breath, the feelings, thoughts, and posture. It doesn’t always feel like a dance, and it doesn’t have to be that graceful all the time,  but there is a rhythm and flow to it.

Desire- the ants!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Stepping into the world of practice, your desires can be guided into new areas. I think people generally have desires for predictable things, and I’m part of that trend too. People want pleasant things, status, sex, comfort, security, adoration. As you become a practitioner, you start to see that there’s something a little fishy about those desires. They cycle through your head and influence your decisions, but often they’re hard to achieve perfectly, and even when you get really close, it doesn’t seem to be enough. Then there’s the content of the desirous daydreams: why do I want that car? Was it seeing the ad on TV five thousand times? Was it because my parents would hate it? Would I have imagined wanting that thing if I’d never seen it on TV? Clearly, people tend to be easily influenced, and we’re living in a kind of world these days, many of us, where influences seem to be multiplying like ants. Desire is not bad per se, and I hope I’m not squashing a dead ant here, repeating this sort of refrain, but it’s not bad. It’s just that it can get out of hand. The definition of hand is up to you as hand-holder.

It is possible to get desirous about practice. You can get fired up about practice. This is something I feel when I go on retreat (although to be honest, retreat tends to involve a lot of resistance and irritation too). Maybe think of Baptist churches in America. People dance and sing. You can get really fired up about your practice and your faith. That’s a good thing. You take a feeling that can get you into so much trouble, drag your life down so much, and turn it towards something positive.

Goodness, neutrality, suffering


Not only do you experience resisting, and lots of thoughts, when you meditate, you might experience negative emotions, too. Finally, Buddhists consider emotions as neither good nor bad (and they’re actually said to be positive, to be a form of good energy, when you’re awake enough to perceive that). This is an odd point and one I will only briefly try to expound upon.

Things are said to be neutral (in the sense of being themselves, or “suchness,” like the way a strong taste is just fully there are you experience the burning of it) and good. The latter is the more difficult part to explain. Somehow things are as they should be. On a bit of a tangent, master teacher Sogyal Rinpoche wrote once that people sometimes use karma as an excuse to not help others, saying, ‘it’s their karma’ to undergo misfortune. He said he responds that it could easily be our karma to help those people undergoing some kind of problem.

In the same vein, if things are as they should be, this could mean that people with terrible problems in their lives, even harder to bear than our own, could be there are part of our responsibility to be generous, patient, virtuous. The suffering of others might not mean that something is terribly wrong with the order of the universe. It could mean that people with relatively together or easy lives are being given a chance to help out. That is, in its way, a good thing. The intensity of suffering doesn’t negate that goodness.

Achi, dharma protector

Reflections, excerpt


I’ve been a meditator for a little less than ten years now. I’m a Buddhist. My experience and inclination lean this book towards Buddhist sitting meditation practice. However, I think it’s very important to say that I think “contemplative practice” includes lots of things, including lots of possibilities. By lots of things, I mean many practices from different traditions- chant, prayer, yoga, and so forth. “So forth” includes a lot, in this case, but not exactly everything. I pick my nose every day (so far, maybe someday I’ll get over this). That’s not really a habit that’s going to help me grow spiritually. In terms of practice, I tend to be biased in favor of more “traditional” approaches, but those aren’t the only good ones, or the only ones that work. By talking about lots of possibilities, I mean that beyond more traditional approaches, there may be other kinds of “practice” that could yield good results. I try to keep a somewhat open mind about that.
Two good examples of this less traditional approach might be the story of the sweeping man, and the Karate Kid. The Buddha had a student who wasn’t very smart, but who genuinely wanted to study and grow. The Buddha instructed him to sweep the floors around the temple, thinking as he was doing so, that he was sweeping away his confusion, his negative thoughts. This was his form of meditation. It’s said that the student did this, and his mind became signficantly stronger as a result. Of course, in the recent “Karate Kid” remake, Jackie Chan instructs his young, unruly student to put a jacket on a hanger over and over. He tells him precisely how to do this. His young student slowly becomes a little more disciplined. Little does the student know that he’s actually learning a martial arts form indirectly, by doing one thing over and over. As time passes, the student, the Jaden Smith character, became more disciplined, and learned how to do kung fu (without even knowing it).


My point is that, although I have a connection to the practice of sitting meditation (saying “I like it” doesn’t seem quite right, or honest), I think a lot of other approaches are available, or workable. It’s worth saying that, also, the teachers in those two examples were good teachers, because they had some insight into how to get their students to do a practice, and one that would create a variety of benefits for themselves and others. There was something a little tricky about this kind of teaching (which is, obviously, not the only kind), and something both subtle and simple. Maybe it seems like I’m making too much of these stories. After all, I’m not trying to explain the most refined philosophical points (which Buddhism, just like lots of other traditions has lots of). Then again, having experienced this kind of teaching in person, in my own life, I don’t think it should just be written off. That’s the twist, there: so often, the heaviest truths are so well known and encased in cliche that they fly under the radar. We’re surrounded by profound teachings, often in the guise of popular culture, cultural chitchat.

The thing

The thing about the buddhadharma is that it’s terrifying. It’s comforting sometimes, and it’s good, but it’s also terrifying. Sometimes it feels like someone showing it to you is holding your head underwater, or trying to kill you. This is really not the point of it. It’s supposed to end suffering, and that’s frightening.


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