My thoughts and activities in Dharamsala

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Über Gloomy Saturday 01-16-11

Man! It was just beginning to have a feeling of warmth up around these parts. For a few days, the cold was held off by some solid days of clears skies and the bright shining face of our solar ruler, but and there is always a but, Friday greeted us with dark, dark clouds and cannon like booms of thunder. From the vantage point of our classroom, the strikes of lightning reaching its slender, quicksilvery tentacles extremely briefly towards the valley floor made it seem like a far off and terror stricken land, full of misgivings. The temperature suddenly dropped. I have already been having a hard time getting out of bed on time and this did not add any new incentives for doing so. By Friday night during group debate, we had the dual droppings of claps. The vicious piercing handclaps of our theses inside the temple, the claps of analysis jabbing at the defender’s assertions seeking their antonyms, the loose chink in the wall and the thunderclaps of the storm which seemed as if the demigods were both trying to take pictures of themselves with colossal cameras in poor lighting and like a war between negatively and positively charged electrons with their subwoofer-like booms rattling our innards.

Throughout the night, dreams upon dreams of apocalyptical combat filled my continuum, mixing awaken and somnolent worlds in a seamless stream of consciousness. Nature’s war of electrons that raged in the sky above appeared to have consumed us and made us participants, greasily peon foot soldiers, pawns, using us cheaply to promote their atmospheric but futile gambits. By morning even though the boom of attack and the sound of skirmishes had totally disappeared, the clouds of lasts night’s battle hung low and pervaded thickly through out all the land and hints of the potential for another epic battle were perceptible. The screams of the fallen, the fallen temperatures was hauntingly audible. These agonizing screams made ones blood curl and still as I sit here, I cannot tell if this was all dream, all a grand hallucination. All this caused me to reflect on my fascination and fantasy about storms as grand atmospheric battles.

Subconsciously, part of it I think came from being a teenager in South Florida were the language of battle was used by meteorologist on the boob-tube to describe the dangers and hazards of the multitude of tropical depressions, storms and hurricanes that frequented the state which stuck out into the Atlantic Ocean like sore thumb pronouncing its negation. The ominous names given to these beasts of rain and wind which brought within their whirling wings tornados performing an ole’ skool cavalry charge also added to the fear. I will never forget these storms. This language thus must have partially entered my subconscious though such subliminal means.

The first time that I remember that it started to surface into my awaken consciousness, was the first time that I had brought some “tickets to Oz” as an adolescent. I probably was no more than 16 years old when I ingested two of these blotter paper tickets. I had brought them from this wanna-be gangster kid that I knew from school. I was living at the time in Margate, Florida but went to school in Coral Springs and everyday I would ride my bike 30 to 45 minutes to and fro. My bike ride home that day began my first journey to Oz, I was curious as to how long the trip would last, I thought that it might be similar to my then habitual 4:20 excursions with my friends where after sometime one gets incredibly hungry and eats all the junk food that can be eaten which meant that within a few hours that one would be back to earth. I should have know better, I had done previous research about these supposed little blotter paper tickets with a picture of Felix the cat on them, which suggested hours and not a few of them by any means, as I found that day.

So I took the tickets, placing them in their habitual delivery slots like the ones on a municipal bus which upon impact send small electric-like shocks deep within my tongue, I then hopped on my bike and rode the 45 minutes back home. 25 minutes into the ride a storm was brewing really thick. I always rode my bike with the traffic and not on the sidewalk. I remember at one point looking up into the cloud filled sky, blazed with lightning, that all the dark formidable clouds that surrounded me overhead transformed themselves into frightful Greek chariots on the warpath before my very eyes. The details and the depths to these illusions were unexpected, they appeared to have possessed a life of their own that breathed and raged even though they were immensely huge. In my mind it seemed like these charioteers were on my side. The stormy sky was filled with tons of them plus phalanxes and other gruesome implements of ancient warfare. Time seemed to move backwards, but my body did not feel a thing. I was still on my bike and I was moving but all that must have been automatic. To me I felt like I was protected by these cumulonimbial warriors on the blood thirsty charge.

I guess that everyone’s first experience of journeying to Oz will be the most memorable though I was so young, stupid and immature then and only slightly more mature and less stupid now. My association of storms and war still circulate within me as it was made apparent by my dreams and my imagination last night and this morning.

On a side note I wished I had a fancy ass camera to take pictures of these great highland storms. The lightning show is just incredible, especially standing on the roof of the dorm, I know! not such a bright idea when you are over 6 foot tall, where exchanges of lightning between cloud happens right above your head, it takes up all of your peripheral vision and one feels like it could be touched. I wish I could take of picture of such moments but I don’t possess the skill or the type of camera to do so. My camera is pretty good but I have been having problems with it, like all the pictures I take come out super blurry. It never did that before, so I need to fuck around with the settings I guess and I might accidentally find a solution. That picture would be so rockin’ for sure.

In class as we further our studies of the “Presentation of Signs and Reasonings”, as we pierce deeper into the implications that it involves, a concept has been coming up over and over again, it is called, valid or prime cognition (tshad ma, pramana). At this point, although since the beginnings of our course we have been flinging this term out at each other left and right but what it truly is appears as a phantasm. It is not entirely clear and when one tries to grasp it, it just flows like smoke between ones fingers. We do know so far that there are two kind of valid/ prime cognizers, 1) direct perception valid cognizer (mngon sum tshad ma, pratyakSa-pramANa), whose defining characteristic is: a new, incontrovertible, non-mistaken knower that is free from conceptuality (rtog pa dang bral zhing ma 'khrul ba'i gsar du mi slu ba'i rig pa). 2) Inferential valid cognizer (rjes dpag tshad ma, anumAna-pramANa), whose defining characteristic is: a knower that is new and incontrovertible with respect to its object of comprehension, a hidden phenomenon, in dependence upon its basis, a correct sign. (rang gi rten rtags yang dag la brten nas rang gi gzhal bya lkog gyur la gsar du mi slu ba'i rig pa).

Now, in the ‘Presentation of Signs and Reasonings’ we deal only with inferential valid cognizer since it seems to govern the realm of thoughts and concepts. But I have gone a bit off the topic and have been thinking about direct perception valid cognizer. This valid cognizer can only cognize things or as they are sometimes called functioning things (dngos po, bhava), whose defining characteristic is: able to perform a function (don byed nus pa, artha-kriyA-samartham). This means that any object which is able to produce its own effect is a function thing which significantly narrows things downs to those that are impermanent and within the Buddhist school which we having been studying, the Sutra School (mdo sde pa, sautrantika), functioning thing and impermanent are equivalent. It is said that for us ordinary beings who do not possess deep realizations, that only our initial moment of cognizing a functioning thing is direct and that the rest is inferential. According to its defining characteristic it also has to be free from conceptuality. This could be the reason why only our first moment of cognizing a functioning thing is considered valid, we also have to keep in mind that it is said that in some schools that there are 65 moments in a blink of an eye. Now, for beings such as the Buddhas of the universes, all their perception is said to be always direct. That is, they can even directly cognize the all atoms within a mountain. This means also that they cognize things free from conceptuality which I think that for most people this might seem a bit hard to swallow, but we won’t know until we achieve Buddhahood, right?

A doubt as arisen in my mind concerning this idea and since I have very minute knowledge into the topic being so fresh into my studies and it being a topic which takes years to grasp, it just might lead me to a thought experiment that I might be able to explore as we move beyond the introductory texts on valid cognition like we are doing now and into the realm of the Indian root texts. I was thinking about this one night as I was staring off into the night sky. Light travels and it take a certain though extremely miniscule amount of time to get from point A to point B in short distances. When this is blown up to astronomical proportions, let’s start with something near like the sun, what we are actually experiencing is the heat, light and radiation of the sun 8 minutes after it has left there. It would seem as though all of our dependence on the sun is truly a dependence on the sun eight minutes into the pass not on the present sun, of course without the present sun being the cause we on earth would be severally fubar-ed. Anyways, so even if the naked eye could look at the sun, it would not and could not look at the actual sun in the present moment because what one would be seeing would be an effect of the sun. If we were to move on to the stars being that many sit billions of light years away, the sense of our true microscopic-ness can be imagined.

But this idea can be applied to anything we perceive with the five senses but possibility less so with touch and taste. That same night that I was staring at the stars, I think that there was a black out in Sarah too because I was thinking about how we were enveloped by a pseudo-black hole since all the surrounding areas had electricity, I looked up the hill towards the lights shining from Naddi village and McLeod Ganj and looked at the lights shining from Kangra down in the valley. So all light travels, I am looking at lights from these places but in truth I am not seeing those lights in the present moment. Though the differential is absolutely subtle and my eye could not possibility perceive it, it is non-the-less true, right? And would not the same hold true to everything else that I see, including my own body? It is clear with sound, as in the case of storms, lightning and thunder are produced at the same time but since light travels faster than sound we hear the thunder of an approaching storm after the lightning has struck, unless it is right over your head. So, can the valid cognition of a Buddha defeat the processes of the physical universe? For obviously us as human beings, being a part of the physical universe, we seem to be locked in or subjugated by those processes. Maybe that is what it partially means to be enlightened, at least it is as close of an understanding as a gross and ignorant being such as myself could ever get up to for the time being. If we equate the physical universe with cyclic existence (‘khor ba, samsara) this could make some sense since achieving release from cyclic existence is a most valued aim.

So far, for us as ordinary beings, when we perceive something validly, that new, incontrovertible, non-mistaken knower that is free from conceptuality is then actually perceiving the pass directly, as in the valid cognition of a sunrise and if one is truly getting at that very first moment of light which has departed from the sun eight minutes ago, it is still unmistaken? According to the Sutra school the past and the future are non-existent leaving only the existent present moment. Would that mean that only things which are near at hand could be validly, directly perceived? This rant of questions has no end. For now from where I stand it is not known if the Buddhist masters of antiquity even thought of these things. Many of these ideas, as far as the speed of light are concerned, are brand spanking new ideas. I suck at mathematics so I would never have made a good physicist and I wonder if I would ever make a good dialectician either. Regardless, this is a path of exploration, exploration of the world in all it contexts from the internal to the external, from the subtle to the gross and vice versa. Though I am not a scientist I do have a lab of sorts, the imaginary lab of the mind and it the context of my course the lab of the debate courtyard where many thought experiments are investigated.

Now it is 5pm, the clouds have cleared just for a second and it looks like Naddi Village, TCV, and even McLeod Ganj received snowfall last night, the snow of the fallen from that great battle in the sky filling the ground not with red blood with pearly whiteness. There is supposed a concert on campus tonight; by a group called the Charity of White Tara (sgrol dkar byams brtse tshogs pa) and if I remember correctly it consists of talented TCV orphans doing various skits and musical performances. It is sponsored by a Taiwanese man who wants to provide a creative outlet to young Tibetan orphans who otherwise would not have gotten to the chance to do so. They performed around this time last year and I am sure that they will rock da’ house again.


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