Opening To Time, Space, And Knowledge

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Opening To Time, Space, And Knowledge Was What The Practice Was All About

Psychology 735

Summer ‘79

It began as a workshop. The Psychology Professor, Don Beere, had brought Larry Simmons to CMU to do the workshop on Time, Space, and Knowledge (TSK). The lama, Tarthang Tulku, Rinpoche, had trained Larry to spread his vision. The lama, from Eastern Tibet, was well educated in all traditions of Tibetan Buddhism and authored the book, Time, Space, And Knowledge, which expressed a new way of understanding the nature of reality. In 1973, the lama established the Nyingma Institute in Berkeley, California, the purpose of which was to provide a place for the interaction of ancient wisdom with modern ideas. The Institute offered an environment for meditation, self-growth, and intellectual development. The primary person responsible for teaching and presenting the TSK vision was Larry Simmons and he was also the person who taught others how to give the workshops. For me, the workshop was interesting and fun, but it was also just too much information presented too quickly.

Not long after I attended the workshop, Professor Beere offered a university class in Time, Space, And Knowledge. We (I was allowed to sit in on the class) were taught how to release physical and mental stress as part of the overall program that involved students in both mental and physical levels of study. According to Tarthang Tulku, the physical body was not a ‘fixed object’ it was essentially flowing and open. Using the books Time, Space, And Knowledge and Kum Nye, we learned techniques for participating in the ongoing process of ‘embodiment’ of energies, which, according to Tarthang Tulku, made for healthy bodies and clear minds. Those exercises included breathing techniques, slow movements, self-massage, chanting, self-image, concentration, and group process work—all of which were supposed to put a person in touch with his or her own creative potential, as body, mind, and emotions engaged the TSK vision. When one’s energies were made to flow more freely, clarity of vision was supposed to result, and, for the most part that was exactly what happened.

In Kum Nye practice there were three stages of unfoldment. In the first stage an increased familiarity with body, thoughts, feeling, and emotions occurred. Observing the levels of mind and the mechanism of our ordinary consciousness was more the focus of the second stage, and the last stage involved the actual transformation of negative energy into positive energy. Because this was only an introductory class there wasn’t enough time to develop the stages. It was enough to find out that they could be developed. I especially paid close attention to the exercises at the second stage because they dealt with observing the mechanism behind our ordinary consciousness, and that had always been what interested me the most.

According to the TSK vision, our nature had an immense depth to it and we could open to that depth. That vision challenged what, typically, got understood as time, space, and knowledge. Opening a person up to time, space, and knowledge, as opposed to what customarily got experienced—the constraining aspects in one’s time, space, and knowledge—– was what the practice of TSK was all about. Unlike most paradigms, which defined reality, the TSK vision was about revealing different aspects of reality by generously giving of itself without ever altering or losing its own nature. In the end, it dissolved itself in the opening up to what is, or at least that’s what Dr. Beere told us was supposed to happen. The exercises were all about getting in touch with that new level of awareness.

Our Beliefs About Reality Are Not Wrong-They Are Approximations

Psychology 735 Paper

After taking the Time-Space-Knowledge class, the “act of dissolving into an opening” stopped sounding so strange. Opening to the possibility of experience without carrying along “excess baggage” was what the class taught us. Getting back to “raw experience” may sound easy, but that was only to the uninitiated. In fact, the discovery of “raw experience” had to be measured in incremental levels. In class we talked about the phenomenological investigations that had revealed the clinging baggage that, for the most part, remained invisible.

Questioning The Constraining Aspect Of Experience:

Experience is constrained; it cannot be separated from intentions. When I notice my experience, I constitute my experience as an object in order to notice it. Thus, that intentionality, by necessity, has to be one of the underlying facets of my experience.

Experience is further constrained by the language I use to identify and describe it. Language gives to the world a kind of stability that may, or may not be there. Sense experience, for example, possesses a kind of indescribability. For instance, the language I use to describe the removal of a hot cherry pie from the oven will never capture the whole experience. The smell of a freshly baked cherry pie cannot be made linguistically clear, yet the language of the experience becomes primary, thus making the experience itself secondary. At bottom, my experience is never free from the methods I use to intentionally constitute it. I would be living in a very different world if it were otherwise.

Consider for a moment, the idea of temporal span or duration. The continuity and stability of the world–and ourselves–depends on this temporal span, but my experience is actually discontinuous. Each conscious moment fades out of existence, while the next emerges only to fade again
and again. What is most notable, but never emphasized, is the gap between these moments. My experience is empty there, but I rarely notice that emptiness. I only notice my unbroken continuity. Thus my experience is made to flow even though it is full of holes and discontinuities.

I integrate my world and myself in time, but I also integrate my world in space, and, in that space, I find my I-space. My I-space, usually located above the plane of my eyes, assumes responsibility for the thoughts and images that arise in that space. It is like an observer appropriating occurrences as one’s own. The experience of a mental “reaching,” “grasping,” or “making into something,” triggers my “experiencing I” and by necessity a world context within which both “my experience” and “my experience of the world” finds its place. Spatiality is a clarifying structure. It helps constitute the character of consciousness and the character of things in the world. But, our I-awareness or knowingness, need not be bounded by an “I” or a physical body; thoughts and knowing arise in awareness while the “I” just comes along for the ride. Specific spaces or specific experiences limit the fullness of the potential experience that is available to us. The TSK vision challenges our normal habits of perception; it challenges also the belief of anthropologists that the body is a “thing” somehow inhabited for the purpose of locomotion. It holds that the true nature of humanity extends far beyond the limitations “we bring” to experience.

Recognizing that the world is the play of Space, Time, and Knowledge speaks to the heart of Being and opens both the world and consciousness up to a radically different set of alternatives. Any thought or sequence of thoughts is bound to its origin, both in terms of its history and intentionality, but that is not the true origin of thoughts. Our space, time and knowledge is a product of a much more encompassing and deepening Space, Time, and Knowledge. The true origin of our thoughts is found there, in the “all encompassing” order. In fact, according to Tarthang Tulku, if only we could get back to that “virgin quality” of experience we could become truly free. He says:

“Throughout history, human beings have understood space as being empty like the sky, and time as the irreversible flow of our lives and of the seasons. There is an increasing emphasis on the knowledge appropriate to this space and time—technical and factual knowledge; the kind you find in an encyclopedia. Holding to this way of knowing however, limits our ability to enjoy and appreciate life…. (But) Once we understand Great Knowledge we do not need to change anything. We recognize that we are part of a vigorous reality that shines through all petty attitudes and preconceptions. Our ‘knowing’ is fresh, sharp, and spontaneous. It never needs to reduce the virgin quality of experience to something that is ‘known’ and therefore unworthy of closer attention and appreciation.”

In the TSK perspective–a vision not bound by a subject-object relation– time is not perceived as the stabilizing condition of the world. And further, in that vision, experience is not always “of something.” The focus is rather on the emptiness at the heart of experience–on the pervasive experience of an empty awareness. The TSK experience—what could be called the ground or source of all specific awarenesses—emerges out of and returns to that open, empty awareness-space. The petty concerns of our daily lives prevent our participation in the great feeling that is Time-Space-Knowledge, a feeling within which we find space and meaning, time and change, and knowledge and clarity.

Our beliefs about realty are not ‘wrong,’ they’re simply approximations of the way things are. Everybody, at one time or another has had an altered space-time experience. That experience can expand into experience of a higher order—experience that is not dissociated or fragmented. In that “place” is found the liberation that accompanies freedom from a persisting, independent, isolated self. In that “place” there is nothing to get, nothing to discard, and no place else we need to go. Tarthang Tulku says it this way:

“Through our bodies we can embody the full and infinite perfection of Being: we can participate intimately in the interpenetration of all reality, Being alive is like being invited to enjoy ourselves in a beautiful garden where every sight and sound blends in perfect, inexpressible harmony. Through our embodiment we can embrace this precious opportunity, and merge with the perfect equilibrium of time, space and knowledge.”

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One Response to “Opening To Time, Space, And Knowledge”

  1. Suze Says:

    Neat blog and unusual….

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