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, which is made up of older and more historically invested/trained folks within the Shambhala lineage – actually a nice situation.
I have a slight bit more of a background with a tradition that talks more about time itself, so when holding the mandala image, my mind first drew out two kinds of time as “this and that”, two ways of relating with phenomena, while reserving what some have called a third, or better, zeroith time. Orderly Chaos really presents three levels, so to me it was a nice parallel: linear, spontaneously arising, and no-time. But the one comment I made in this direction was met with some confusion, which brought me to reexamine.
Maybe I’m moving in a direction not presented, but that’s OK.
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: memory, motion, progress, measurement, situatedness, dreaming. I see myself pulled to accept the effects of time every day, because I forever try to tame it for my own benefit and use, even knowing better. Or trying to tame myself for its use, as though something (separate).
There are days in which everything productive and “good” appears; the world is smiling, the universe is friendly – opening follows another to another. On other days nothing much happens – ‘meh’ days waiting for the first to occur again; I suspect I may have turned a corner at which they might not anymore. There is a light but pervasive panic, like writer’s block. Lucidity withheld.
In actuality there are no good days and bad days, or even meh days. It is mind that moves, not the flag (zen koan). In practice, the illusion is persistent.
So 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, as self. 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? Dogen said that “All the universe is one bright pearl.”
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 is 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 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 represents the order and the other, 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 simple of an idea so easily.
Trungpa Rinpoche 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 (or what buddhists refer to as ultimate reality) there is no mandala.
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. 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. Einstein said this:
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.
Another friend might say we compulsively go after fruits while ignoring the roots. All over Miami right now there are blooming Royal Poinsettia trees, but not all are spectacularly expressive. It has to do with whether they are situated to receive proper nourishment, sufficient depth for flourishing.
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 evolution, it is usually a very old and incomplete model of linear progress they are refusing. Randomness isn’t without purposefulness, anymore than emptiness is without fullness. In that sense evolution misunderstood is like the linear, first view of time, with randomness the second. It isn’t that the second negates the first, but if the first is missing its partner dimension it might be 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 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 a raindrop in a canyon. What we can quantify is a sliver of what we can’t pin down – reality can be very painful and confusing, impossible to trace out on the branches.