I woke going over ideas that would be taught hours later in a class titled Orderly Chaos and mused that while it may seem a given that time and perception are two sides of a coin, to trade in that needs practice not theory. It is about the way it seems as I trace steps, when I try to notice how perception and time relate – especially during retreats or focused practice.
Orderly Chaos is a term unfolded by Trungpa Rinpoche, within a context called Mandala Principle. His talks on the subject were compiled into a book – the title of which already gives a great deal to work with, presenting the seemingly contradictory energies and relationship. My way with the material is a little different from the rest of the class so far, all of whom are older and more historically invested/trained in the Shambhala lineage – actually a nice situation that I’ve found myself in often.
So my mind first went to considerations between two kinds of time, two ways of relating with phenomena, while reserving what some have called a third, or better, zeroith time.
I have a slight bit more of a background with a tradition that talks more about time itself, and it may be that aspect of the tradition that brought me its way, considering that my interest in science once led my young son to believe, and to tell his classmates that his mother was “someone important with the brain” due to my reading material and the conversations he was surrounded by growing up. There was no background at all, just curiosity.
I like to think in terms of linear, spontaneously arising, and no-time when it comes to mandala principle and samsara/nirvana, but the one comment I made in this direction was met with some confusion, which brought me to reexamine my approach and try to work harder to articulate this process even if only for myself.
For me, time is a tangible daily practice and can present the clearest distinctions, which makes it kind of a treasure house with many openings in: memory, motion, progress, measurement, situatedness, dreaming, etc. It is the effects of time that I see myself wrestling to accept every day (see, can’t get away from time terms), and sometimes the sweet spot I find it hardest to stay in. I’m forever trying to tame it for my own benefit and use.
Or perhaps trying to tame myself for its use, as though something (separate), even realizing it is not.
There are days in which everything productive and “good” happens; the world is smiling, the universe is friendly – one opening follows another to another. On other days nothing much happens – ‘meh’ days feel almost wasted, waiting for the first to occur again, melancholy, suspecting I may have turned a corner at which they might not anymore. The latter I’d call linear days, and the first kind of time. The former I’d call a second kind of time, taking a different view, and can be cultivated, instigated, sparked. The first is as though I’m stuck inside of something and struggling with it – samsara. And the second as more meta, both within and without, and presents more freedom and vision.
Once in a while, first time feels truly oppressive, and there is despair over how little time there seems to rise to various occasions, or how much time has already passed, or is rushing by too quickly. I’m in fear of being left behind and angry that I didn’t know more faster, sooner. I forget the doors.
I don’t think I’m unusual in this. In class they often use the word “panic.”
However, I do keep some reminder as a compass that in actuality there are no good days and bad days, or even meh days. It is mind that moves, not the flag (zen koan).
So on one level you have what is, the way it is, and simultaneously you have the way you experience that – either as something resisted and other, objectified, or in a sense – as self. When things are ‘good’ we expect a change to ‘bad’ or ‘less’, and vice-verse. We make little room for good to good to good, in different forms.
One teacher put it this way: that we are used to thinking in terms of subjects perceiving objects, but what if there are only subjects perceiving subjects? “All the universe is one bright pearl,” wrote Dogen.
It feels like I’m skipping around but I’m going to draw more parallels anyway. In dreaming there are karma dreams and dharma dreams… dreams that are processing the days content and inspired or lucid dreams. In meditation there is shamatha (calm abiding) and vipassana (insight). And waking life becomes like this too. Already there are many people who have opened to this 2nd level way of living, or at least the aspiration, having tasted its enhanced flavors – people from every sort of background and religious tradition. The third is more illusive because it can’t really be touched nor defined even in the vague terms we use for the 2nd level. However, dream yogis use terms like “clear light.”
In terms of Orderly Chaos, and this class, and samsara/nirvana, I think of it like considering a coin with both sides exposed and in hand. Open. Maybe there could even be the additional parallel of hungry ghost vs god realms, with the human fathoming both and manifesting or exhibiting both. One might say that one side of the coin there is the order and on the other there is the chaos, but when another student in the class said something similar, the teacher laughed a little – that it was too pretty of a picture – that she didn’t think CTR would have accepted that simply of an idea so easily. He continually flipped formulas… Socratic in that way. In terms of mandala principle, we are, at various views: the mandala, and are in the mandala, and are part of mandala of others. Which presents a kind of mandala of mandalas – diverse and dynamic.
Yet in zeroith time there is no mandala.
Let me go back to linear and spontaneous time. A few posts ago I wrote about a character whose talents arose spontaneously as she encountered situations. Although she set out in a linear way to prepare for a certain end (there was a stated goal for the character), that goal was like an egg she both abandoned and surpassed after its purpose had been fulfilled. She still had to train in a linear way to have been situated for spontaneity. There was still a pattern, path, process – mandala drawn.
Yet, what bloomed was far more than what was imagined or set out for. The intricacies could not be factored ahead of time, only given place for. To focus only on cultivating a bloom is going after the treasure while ignoring the treasure holder, which can even be a kind of stealing.
Another friend might say it is going after fruits but ignoring the roots.
When you truly awaken,
You have no formal merit.
In the multiplicity of the relative world,
You cannot find such freedom.
Self-centered merit brings the joy of heaven itself,
But it is like shooting an arrow at the sky;
When the force is exhausted, it falls to the earth,
And then everything goes wrong.
Why should this be better
Than the true way of the absolute,
Directly penetrating the ground of Tathagata?
Just take hold of the source
And never mind the branches.
It is like a treasure-moon
Enclosed in a beautiful emerald.
Now I understand this Mani-jewel
And my gain is the gain of everyone endlessly.
– from the Song of Enlightenment
I acknowledge that my tendency is to stay at the bloom level and pursue the shiny thoughts, the insights. Or maybe it used to be. Maybe I’ve changed a little, am a little less shiny.
There is a reason I titled this randomness, introducing a word not introduced in class, but I find myself veering away from making that point. What I’ll say is that from my perspective a lot of confusion might be cleared up about what evolution means, by digging farther into what randomness means. The connections are not mere cause and effect nor can they be traced, honestly, any more than one can remember all the steps of their day and the thoughts that led to each movement.
When people criticize the idea of evolution, it is usually because of a very old and incomplete model of linear progress. Randomness isn’t without purposefulness, anymore than emptiness is without fullness. In that sense evolution as misunderstood is like the linear, first view of time, with randomness a second. It isn’t that the second negates the first, but the first is missing dimensions and is easy to make into a caricature.
A few months ago a friend ‘lost’ her mother. She hadn’t spoken to her mother for many years, nor had she any hope for a relationship with her for the future. Still, she was hit very hard by the seeming permanence of the loss. Following the death, however, came an emotionally rich process, an unpacking and reframing of former views as she learned more about her and began to see from her perspective – there was new permission to do so. She began getting to know her anew, as though a true stranger.
So some might count only the time her mother and she were talking with one another as relationship, or as meaningful time, but really it was ja drop in a bucket. What we can quantify is a sliver of what we can’t pin down, and a reality that can be very painful and confusing, impossible to trace.