In Digitism Part 1 (?), I quoted from Beyond Nature and Culture – Philippe Descola. In these quotes he described what he posited as the four possible ontologies. He defined ontologies as “ sociocosmic forms of aggregation and conceptions of self and non-self.”
Figure and ground is the basis for perception to distinguish this from that. I think ground is a more complicated phenonomen than simply being the undifferentiated backdrop to thingness. The perception of ground contains a set of assumptions and guesses. For instance a frog assumes that everything not moving is neither food nor threat. Everything that does not move is the backdrop allowing things (foods or threats) to manifest.
Humans require a more complicated backdrop – “sociocosmic forms of aggregation and conceptions of self and non-self.”
Descola’s intent is to distinguish how the experience of interiority aggregates portions of the physical world into the experience of self, leaving the rest as non-self.
Yet the language is also evocative of Buddhist ideas of Non-Self as a mark of existence. So despite the experience of a Self as not only the referent point for perception, but as truly existent, self-sufficient essence, its nature is in fact Non-Self.
Training in not only the idea , but the experience of this as well, leads to the recognition of the non-duality of subject and object – Space is Seen.
So meet Red Bob #2 – part of my own ongoing training in non-duality.
For about 2 years now I’ve been reading, rereading, looking at with various levels of confusion the Final Exposition of Wisdom by Jeffrey Hopkins. Most of the book is extended excerpts from 3 of Tsong-Ka-Pa’s major works, with extensive footnotes and a final essay by Hopkins. Hopkins acts as an editor and translator, but the bulk of the book is from Tsong-Ka-Pa’s works.
Tsong-Ka-Pa was the last of the three masters (Padmasambhava and Atisha being the other 2) that taught and developed the “spiritual synthesis of Tibetan Buddhism”* over the course of about 730 years. He founded the Gelugpa school to which the Dalia Lama belongs.
Only recently I realized that several times in the book Tsong-Kha-Pa quotes a passage from the Verse Summary of the Perfection of Wisdom. (There are a number of Perfection of Wisdom Sutras, this one being considered one of the earliest. The Heart Sutra is the most famous.)
The One-Gone-Thus teaches that one who does not see forms,
Does not see feelings, does not see discriminations,
Does not see intentions, does not see
Consciousness, mind, or sentience sees the dharma.
Analyze how space is seen as in the expression
By sentient beings in words, “Space is seen.”
The One-Gone-Thus teaches that seeing the dharma is also like that.
The seeing cannot be expressed by another example.
Somehow, understanding that I had been reading the same passage, in different contexts for almost 2 years without understanding the degree of repetition, without understanding the centrality of the passage, seemed significant.
Until it didn’t.
*Essential Tibetan Buddhism, Robert Thurman p.35
Last night , Karen, Emma and I drummed for the return of the sun. It’s our Winter Solstice custom, a Shamanic ritual of remembrance and looking to the future.
Well, almost. Last year, through inertia perhaps we didn’t do it. And sure the hours of daylight got longer anyway, but it was a rough year, there was much darkness in our minds.
I think we have to have a more elastic sense of causality in these kind of things. A sense of karma across a continuum of awareness expressed maybe in units of lifetimes, extended in the rebirth of an unaware non-self.
So last night we drummed, around a single candle, instead of our usual fireplace fire, welcoming the four guests, the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, the Spirits of the Place, and the Beings each of us have a special karmic connection to, each of us expressing in rhythm, frequency and volume something as ephemeral as a lifetime, as solid as daylight.
It will be a good year.